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Community prepares for emergencies by learning to build shelters

Mar 07, 2018 05:19PM ● Published by Keyra Kristoffersen

The fundamentals of running a shelter are taught to Sandy residents. (Red Cross)

Sandy City Hall hosted an emergency shelter fundamentals class Saturday, Feb. 3, put on by the Red Cross for those interested in learning more about community emergency preparedness. 

“What we really want to do is train the community to be really resilient and be able to do some of these basic tasks like opening a shelter and registering people,” said Toni Wise, who has been with the Red Cross for just over two years, first in northern Nevada and now in Utah.

The Shelter Fundamentals training is one of a couple of classes offered by the Red Cross that is open to the community. A combination of Sandy City residents and Red Cross trained volunteers help teach participants how to open, run and close a basic shelter. The essentials covered included having the correct documentation of residents that come in, communicating with facility owners or managers, how to ask for additional time, clean-up and what you should plan for in terms of meals. 

The Red Cross also discussed what makes a good shelter facility. Recreation centers, for example usually have showers, larger bathrooms and areas for health and mental health services. Along with keeping shelter residents as safe and comfortable as possible, the volunteers spoke about keeping the residents’ information secure.

“We want to get community members out so they can see what our shelters look like, how to register people for shelters, what that info is used for,” said Wise.

Sandy City has its own CERT, or Community Emergency Response Team, that can train community members so that when there’s a significant emergency they can open and start to run a shelter before Red Cross can get there. The city emergency manager, Jeff Mulcahy, was the one who reached out to the Red Cross to organize this class in preparation for wildfires, house fires and the anticipated 7.2 earthquake scientists say Utah is due for. 

“In Utah, especially along the Wasatch Front, our biggest concern is the earthquake. It’s not a matter of if it’s gonna happen, but when,” said Wise. She has taken the classes across seven counties throughout Utah including a disaster simulation held in Draper just a few weeks ago, and has been helping Tooele County build and prepare a response team.

In March, the Red Cross will not only hold another shelter fundamentals class in Cottonwood Heights at the Cottonwood Recreation Center, but has paired with the city to get the neighborhoods ready for the Great Shake-Out on April 14, a statewide earthquake drill. Volunteers and houses will be marked as safe, in need of help or dead for teams and block captains to practice helping in a simulated emergency situation. 

There will also be instructions for building 96-hour kits for individuals to be self-sufficient in case they are separated from supplies and help.

Wise said that in her five previous deployments around the country, she’s never seen a community more interested in emergency preparedness than in Utah.

“Not only are the community members interested in making sure that they’re prepared and finding out how they can help take care of their neighbors,” said Wise, “but businesses and other organizations around here are just so willing to learn and to help and educate themselves to be ready for something.”

All ages are welcome at the Red Cross classes and Wise said she hopes it will be a good way to get kids interested and involved in preparedness and disaster training.

For more information about future health and safety programs offered, visit: http://www.redcross.org/ 

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