Thursday, February 24, 2011

American Red Cross to hold disaster drill Saturday ( ( USA)

American Red Cross to hold disaster drill Saturday

Hurricanes, wildfires, thunderstorms and certainly tornadoes are all common occurrences across the state of Texas.

"That's why it's imperative that the American Red Cross, an organization responsible for bringing comfort to Mother Nature's victims, is as prepared as possible in advance of any unexpected event," a press release from the local Red Cross chapter states.

For the first time ever, 23 Red Cross chapters ranging from the Rio Grande Valley to the Red River will join forces and simultaneously test their ability to respond to a simulated devastating tornado outbreak. The simulated event will be held Saturday.

The role of the more than 600 disaster assessment volunteers will be to determine the types of residential damage caused by the mock tornado outbreak. Throughout the statewide exercise, volunteers will approach specific pre-selected neighborhoods. On stakes that will be inserted into the ground, the volunteer will have a visual image of a home that has been affected. They will have to determine the type of damage and then relay that information back to Red Cross and to FEMA Region VI officials. This important step is the catalyst to all Red Cross services.

"It's critical that we have an accurate assessment of impacted homes as quickly as possible," said Sharon Watson, director of the Texoma Area Red Cross. "That step tells us how many meals need to be prepared, how many volunteers need to be activated, how many shovels and rakes we need to have on hand and so much more. It drives the entire Red Cross response."

In the Collinsville community area, the Red Cross has partnered with the city of Collinsville and Grayson County Office of Emergency Management to get the best results from the exercise. Volunteers will report to Collinsville Community Center on Main Street at 8:15 a.m., participate in a briefing, and then hit the neighborhoods by 9:30 a.m. The drill is expected to last until noon, followed by an after-action review from noon to 2 p.m.

"Without question, this drill will help the Red Cross be better prepared for future disasters," Watson. said. "We saw with Tropical Storm Hermine last year that disasters can and do affect the entire state. Closer to our Texoma area, we had the tornadoes in December 2009. The more we train through exercises like this one, the more we can help our neighbors when they truly need us."

Drill coordinator for the Texoma Chapter is volunteer Jennifer Bedell. Dean Carpenter is the disaster assessment supervisor. Corporate sponsor is Grayson-Collin Electric Coop.

For information on becoming a trained Red Cross volunteer, go to To follow the drill in real-time, follow @RedCrossDRILL on Twitter.

For more information the American Red Cross, visit or join the Red Cross blog at