VRC drill empowers Red Cross to train spontaneous volunteers

Red Cross volunteers work on background checks at the VRC drill.On Thursday August 8th, the American Red Cross Central Texas Chapter hosted a special drill at the Northwest Recreational Center in Austin. Our volunteers put their training and skills to the test in real-life scenarios and ultimately demonstrated excellent teamwork and leadership throughout the drill.

After learning many lessons from past hurricanes like Katrina and Ike, our local emergency management office and Red Cross leadership teamed up to put a plan in place that would allow our region to quickly set up more than 70 shelters across Travis, Williamson and Hays counties. The Capital Area Shelter Hub Plan (CASH-P), as it’s called, is unlike any other in the country, because the Red Cross, our local Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTS) and the school districts all work together to make decisions and take action.

With hurricane season upon us and recent tropical storms threatening to make landfall, it’s more important than ever for us to prepare for the very real possibility of a hurricane in the Gulf. Because of a point-to-point agreement with the City of Galveston, our region needs to be prepared to shelter up to 25,000 evacuees. But the Red Cross of Central Texas can’t rely on its existing volunteers alone to staff all of those shelters.  So what do we do? We set up a Volunteer Resource Center (VRC), of course!

The VRC serves as the destination for spontaneous volunteers–citizens from our community with no prior Red Cross experience–to receive the training and background checks they need and step into action as a Red Cross shelter worker in just a few short hours.

In addition to the Red Cross volunteers and staff who conducted the drill, volunteers from community partner organizations like United Way, Austin Disaster Relief Network, Austin Animal Services and the Jewish Community Center turned out to both role-play as spontaneous volunteers and to staff the VRC as trainers. They practiced registering new volunteers, doing background checks, delivering orientation presentations, creating badges and delivering orientation presentations.

The drill even caught the attention of three local TV news stations who captured some of the action. Check out some of the coverage here!

All in all, the drill was a great example of how much we can accomplish when we work together as a community. History has proven that a real hurricane evacuation will be absolutely chaotic and much of our planning will go out the window as we adjust to unexpected challenges, but a little extra effort, planning and practice goes a long way when it comes time to provide relief to our neighbors in need.

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Volunteer Elton Fewell wears his patches proudly at the VRC drill

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VRC drill empowers Red Cross to train spontaneous volunteers

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