Volunteers preparing for hurricane seasonPublished 11:01am Thursday, March 13, 2014
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As hurricane season looms, area volunteers with the Red Cross are offering their services in the event of another Katrina, or severe weather-related incident.
On Wednesday, Red Cross representatives met with volunteers at the Red Cross office downtown for an initial meet and greet, the first stage of monthly planning meetings to coordinate community preparedness for potential disasters.
Disaster Action Teams, or DATS, are local extensions of the Red Cross. Members provide specific needs in the event of a disaster including distribution of aid and supplies, truck drivers, disaster assessment and management, among other responsibilities.
“We look for whatever the volunteer may be able to provide. Anybody can help. It’s just a matter of determining how,” said Red Cross Emergency Management Agency Manager Ronerick De’Keith Simpson.
Roughly 15 members of the community showed up to Wednesday’s event, including Brookhaven Chief of Police Bobby Bell.
In the event of a hurricane evacuation, all contra-flow traffic traveling from the coast north on Interstate 55 ends just south of town. Because of this, the city of Brookhaven and Lincoln County experienced a surge in hurricane evacuees after Katrina.
“Hurricanes are the biggest concern, given Katrina in recent years. However, Red Cross volunteers could be necessary for several weather-related catastrophes: tornadoes, thunderstorms, floods and even an earthquake,” said Red Cross Regional Disaster and Program Director Bob Delaney.
“These meetings help prepare our volunteers to respond to disaster calls and assist with victim needs.”
Besides natural disasters, the Red Cross often responds to single-family house fires. In the aftermath, the Red Cross provides victims immediate relief. This includes food, lodging, clothing, medication replacement and mental health counseling.
In the event of a major storm or threatening weather, the Red Cross will contact local DAT volunteers across several platforms, including the web and by text messages.
Delaney, who recruits and meets with DAT members, said there are over 2,000 DAT volunteers across the state. Over 96 percent of the Red Cross workforce are volunteers according to their website.