Last Saturday, 23 Red Cross Disaster Services members (and one prospect) spent the day participating in a Port Authority of NY/NJ Full-Scale Exercise at Newark Liberty International Airport. Ten members volunteered as “Mock Disaster Clients,” or victims of the simulated emergency. The other 14 were “Players,” exercising tasks the Red Cross would perform should such an event occur.
One of those tasks is working with the Red Cross “Safe and Well” welfare inquiry system. Disasters often make it difficult to stay in touch with loved ones. The Red Cross Safe and Well website (www.safeandwell.org) is a central location for people in disaster areas to register their current status, and for their loved ones to access that information. This helps provide displaced families with relief and comfort during a stressful time.
During the exercise, the Red Cross Mock Disaster Clients passed through a medical triage process and once determined as “released,” were directed to the Safe and Well station to register on the system. This welfare inquiry system helps alleviate the influx of incoming calls, allowing both Red Cross and government officials to focus more resources on the disaster response.
Red Crossers also helped staff the Emergency Operations Center and Incident Command Post during the exercise. These sites, along with the Safe and Well station, were also supported by HAM radio operators to test alternative communications, should the cell phone network go down. A team located at the Red Cross Disaster Operation Center in Fairfield supported the alternative communications testing.
The exercise provided the opportunity to showcase the prototype for the new Red Cross Next Generation Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) and utilize one of the donated Toyota Prius vehicles to help transport staff to and from the various sites at the airport. The built-in WiFi capability of the ERV allowed for direct internet connectivity to support Safe and Well data entry.
Our sincere thanks to all of the Red Crossers who volunteered their day to participate in this exercise to help prepare for an emergency we hope we never need to face.
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