Local Red Cross to offer disaster training classes

The Northwest Colorado Centennial Branch of the American Red Cross hopes to add new members to its Disaster Action Team (DAT).

The organization is offering disaster training classes June 21 and 22 at the Centennial Chapter of the Red Cross at 502 Yampa Ave.

The classes are free and will be cover four areas of disaster training. Once completed, individuals become members of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team.

Red Cross Disaster Action Teams are groups of trained volunteers who immediately respond to small-scale local disasters typically house fires.

"We have a group of trained volunteers that make up our Disaster Action Team," said Deb Lowe, branch manager of the Centennial Red Cross. "They respond to emergency family services in the area, take care of the victims and help them get set up. They are the ones that initially respond to the scene."

"The Red Cross works just like the old-fashion barn raisings," said Centennial Chapter Executive Officer Wil Huett. "If someone's barn burns down, we all get together and help them raise a new one. Our volunteers respond when help is needed."

Lowe said there are currently 12 Craig DAT members.

"We desperately need more volunteers," Lowe said. "We would like to have 25 DAT members in each county."

The Northwest Colorado Branch of the Red Cross serves Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties. The Centennial Chapter is made up of branches from Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt, Jackson, Larimer, Weld, Morgan, Logan, Washington, Sedgwick, Phillips and Yuma counties.

"We're small in our area, but we have access to all of Northern Colorado," Lowe said.

"What I'm really trying to do is get more volunteers because with the holidays and what not, the volunteers may be gone. We are just one of five branches in all of Northern Colorado. So we're just trying to build up our volunteer base."

Lowe said local disasters are first responded to by Northwest Colorado Branch DAT members. DAT members are sent to disasters in pairs of two.

The DAT arrives on the scene with a DAT kit that includes, among other items, food and medication.

"A disaster would start with our team," she said. "Then, depending on the size of the disaster, we would have teams coming in from our other branches to help assist in what we can't cover."

Lowe said six Centennial Chapter Red Cross DAT volunteers already have been sent to Denver to help with current wildfire.

The class will cover introduction to disasters, family services/providing emergency assistance, damage assessment and a workshop on Disaster Action Teams.

Introduction to disasters will instruct people on how the Red Cross helps people prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

"Introduction to disasters explains how the Red Cross responds and functions during a disaster situation," Lowe said.

"It is a brief overview to introduce them to community response and the role of Red Cross disaster services."

Family services/providing emergency assistance trains members in how to meet the needs of families following a disaster.

"That's where you learn all the necessary paperwork and forms on how to take care of a family that has been involved in a single-family fire," Lowe said.

Damage assessment will explain how to evaluate disaster-caused structural damage to housing and document the characteristics of an affected community.

"It will be an overview on how a family will need assistance long term, because we not only help them temporarily. We'll help them get set up until they're on their feet again and able to take care of themselves," Lowe said.

The workshop on DAT would include a summary on how the Red Cross can assist a disaster-stricken family with necessities such as food, clothing, shelter and emergency health needs.

Lowe said the Red Cross is always in need of volunteers.

"The Red Cross relies on volunteers to take care of the majority of what we do in a disaster situation. Everyone has a job and everyone does that job. It usually all comes together and works very well."

Huett said the Red Cross is in need of additional volunteers because the organization responds to emergency disasters around the state, and around the country.

"It is about that old-fashion American spirit of trying to help others in times of need," Huett said.

The classes will include information on wildfire preparedness.

For more information contact Lowe at 824-2661.

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