The American Red Cross needs volunteers to cover disasters and emergencies when they occur in Cooke County and is offering training this Thursday.
Sharon M. Watson, executive director of the Texoma Area Chapter of the Red Cross, said more than 95 percent of all disaster response by Red Cross is led by community volunteers. The area Red Cross works with local residents so that trained volunteers are available in the event of a local emergency.
“A key element in all that we do is we use volunteers,” Watson noted.
Disaster volunteers are needed to respond to emergencies ranging from single family house fires to large-scale national disasters and the need to respond to emergencies and provide disaster relief in Cooke County is not unusual.
“Last year we responded to 27 house fires in Cooke County, which included households of single individuals to families of seven or eight people,” Watson said.
Through training, a volunteer will learn to respond during a disaster situation in their area and how to help the individuals and families involved.
Responsibility of these volunteers, specifically those to be the first on the scene, is to see what needs to be done to help the victims. They do the initial survey from the standpoint of how the Red Cross can respond and offer assistance for the people involved in the disaster. The volunteer reports the circumstances to the Red Cross to let them know how they can best assist.
If it’s a house fire and the family is displaced, the Red Cross will assist the family to get clothing, shelter, lost medications and food. They assist by giving them a place to begin to recover.
Watson said the local Red Cross doesn’t have that many volunteers in Cooke County, and there is especially a need in the southern Valley View area and the northern Lindsay and Muenster areas.
“We’re spread so thin,” Watson noted.
The first training session is this Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. and the session will address the Disaster Services Overview at the Red Cross office at 2527 State Highway 691 in Denison. This orientation class will present various roles volunteers may play in disaster response. The overview will feature different disaster scenarios, personal preparedness and community response.
The second training is Jan. 20, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. and the class, Disaster Assessment, will train volunteers in assessing the impact of a disaster on the community and individuals. This course includes training on tasks needed to complete a community assessment and reporting and collection of data so that the Red Cross can plan response to assist in the community’s recovery. It will also be at the Red Cross office unless there are enough volunteers from Cooke County that the second session can be held in a Cooke County location.
The Red Cross disaster classes are free to the public.
Watson said over 20,000 hours were donated in 2010 in the 3 counties that the Texoma chapter serves.
“We couldn’t function without our volunteers,” Watson continued. “That’s who we are.”
A complete description of the courses and other Red Cross training opportunities may be found on the Texoma Area Chapter’s link on the national Red Cross web page at www.redcross.org. Participants may register for these classes on line as well.
For more information about becoming a volunteer and training call the Texoma Area Chapter of the American Red Cross at (903) 465-1330. The website for the local chapter is www.texoma.redcross.org.