On Saturday, February 22nd, more than 50 volunteers gathered at the Red Cross office in Fairfield for the first regional preparedness conference. According to Paul Gass, Regional Preparedness Manager, the conference provided an opportunity for volunteers to meet face to face and share preparedness information. The morning started with the highlights of the team’s accomplishments in 2013, followed by the targets for the current fiscal year.
Volunteer Kevin Anderson provided an overview of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and the applicable training classes recommended on the FEMA website. The team had an interactive discussion about the roles of the CERT and Red Cross teams, and the partnership that often occurs on many disasters.
Grant Hansen, Director of Product Development, Preparedness, Health and Safety Services, provided an overview of the available Red Cross mobile apps and some interesting data on their usage. The average user spends approximately 7 minutes using an app during non-disaster periods, while spending 12-40 minutes in the apps during a disaster. The most recent introduction to the app suite is the Pet First Aid app, which is the first paid app launched by the Red Cross.
Carol Chang, Chief Programs Officer, discussed the Ready Rating Program, a free, web-based program designed to help businesses, organizations and schools to become better prepared. Members complete a self assessment of their current readiness level.
Michelle Esposito, Volunteer Director and Suzanne Anderson, Volunteer Manager, provided an overview of the Pillow Case Project. The aim of the project is to teach children in grades 3 through 5 about disaster preparedness. This is a new program that will use a 3-step approach where the kids learn a skill, practice the skill and then share it with their family.
The afternoon provided some time for the volunteers to grab a bite to eat, then mix and mingle. Information stations included the Somerset County Animal Rescue Team (CART), youth services, braille, disaster mapping, public speaking tips and the new ERV. Volunteers had a chance to chat with one another and visit the information stations that piqued their interest.
The team regrouped for a short session in the afternoon. Volunteer Jeff Einbond shared some public speaking tips and provided advice on how to handle challenging situations. The day wrapped up with an open forum to discuss suggestions for improvements as well as a question and answer session.
The day provided a unique opportunity to meet volunteers from all over the North Jersey region. The importance of disaster preparedness resonated throughout the day. There are a plethora of volunteer opportunities listed in Volunteer Connection!
By Volunteer Julie Daigle
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