Red Cross holds shelter drill in Coweta

by Sarah Fay Campbell


Jessica McFadden, emergency services program director for the Three Rivers Chapter, and Rich Acker, regional mass care program support manager, stand near the Red Cross emergency response vehicle at the shelter simulation. 

On Saturday, the multipurpose building at the Coweta County Recreational Center became a Red Cross disaster shelter.

Sort of.

Red Cross workers, other agencies, Coweta CERT members and volunteers from throughout the 10 county Three Rivers Red Cross region were on hand for the annual shelter simulation drill.

Volunteers and others rotated between several different stations to learn the nuts and bolts of what goes on in a Red Cross disaster shelter. Stations included dormitory, health services, mental health, staff, sign in, and the “emergency response vehicle,” which can also function as a mobile feeding station.

The drill helps everyone learn how to open and operate a shelter when the need arises.

For the simulation, the “disaster” was a tornado that tore the roof off Newnan High School and caused damage in downtown neighborhoods and along Bullsboro Drive.

After lunch, everyone broke into groups to talk about how to deal with different situations – or “injects” – that might arise while they are working together as a shelter team.There was also a “cot competition” to see how quickly volunteers could set up a cot, and there were presentations provided by various agency partners about that they do.

There were over 100 participants, said Jessica McFadden, emergency services program manager for the Three Rivers region. They included representatives from about 15 partners including the Salvation Army, Department of Family and Children’s Services, Region 4 Public Health, Coweta County Emergency Management, Coweta CERT, the Coweta Amateur Radio Emergency Service, and others.

Members of ARES and Coweta Emergency Manager Director Jay Jones set up emergency communications from the mobile command post to the Coweta 911 Center.

“This is amazing,” said Stephanie May, Coweta County director for the Salvation Army. “It helps all the agencies and organizations get on the same page.”

Tom and Carol Baudo volunteered at the sign up table.

“I think it’s cool,” Tom said. “It gives agencies the opportunity to interface with each other – fortunately not in a real emergency” situation. Baudo has experience with emergencies – he was a contractor with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Laura George, emergency management disability liaison with Noah’s Ark, got her start by dealing with a real emergency.

Her husband was paralyzed in a hit-and -run crash when she was three months pregnant. When she was nine months pregnant, Hurricane Ernesto hit their area of Florida. And there was no community support. She was almost in the situation where her husband would have to deliver their baby.

She remembered that when her husband was discharged from the hospital, she asked hospital staff how they could prepare for a hurricane.

“The person at the hospital said, ‘You’re the first person to ask that question,’” George said. “That was the wrong answer.”

Ever since, she has been working to help people understand the unique needs of disabled individuals in emergency situations.

“I talk about all the questions nobody talks about,” she said.

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