MOUNT VERNON — In the event of a major weather event, the Knox County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management works closely with the American Red Cross Knox County Chapter to provide victims with necessary shelter.
Severe Weather Awareness Week kicks off today– March 23, 2009
Knox County feels wrath of hurricane– September 15, 2008
Alert sirens work well in county– April 2, 2008
Businesses can practice emergency plans, drills– March 26, 2008
Area responders ready for severe weather– February 21, 2008
Preparedness key to surviving a tornado– March 17, 2007
Sirens sound warning in times of bad weather– March 16, 2007
How a tornado forms– March 16, 2007
“We work hand in hand with the Red Cross,” said Brian Hess, director of the Knox County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “The Red Cross’ involvement is scenario based. It takes a request from us to activate those shelters.”
“We take guidance from EMA,” said Dee Hoeflich, emergency services director of the Red Cross. “Brian will gauge the situation before the opening of any shelter. If there are a lot of homes affected, then we’ll open a shelter.”
Hoeflich recalled the windstorm of September 2008, when comfort shelters were opened.
“After the windstorm, people could still stay in their homes without power, but we opened comfort shelters for a place to get snacks, charge cell phones or just relax during the day. If it would have been too cold overnight we would have opened the shelter for overnight,” Hoeflich said.
The decision to open the shelter is based purely on the needs of the community, she said.
“Our immediate goal is to cover the basic needs. If there are medical needs for those without power, we can provide that, although we may not offer overnight accommodates for the general public,” Hoeflich said.
Within two hours of being asked to open a shelter, the Red Cross can have a shelter up and running.
“Our disaster trailer has everything we need to open a shelter immediately,” Hoeflich said.
Cots, blankets, basic first-aid needs and other items are stored in the trailer and can be quickly moved to the site of the shelter with delivery of enough items for up to 75 people, she said.
At least 50 sites throughout Knox County have been designated as shelter locations, offering large and small areas for shelters. Because not every shelter is open for every situation, Hoeflich said it is important for residents to turn to the media to instruct them as to when and where shelters are open.
The Red Cross has 30 to 35 volunteers trained for emergency shelter services. The group is hoping to increase that number to include those directly related to potential shelter sites.
“If it’s a church, we want to get members of the congregation trained. With that, we don’t have to use our volunteers all in one place if we need multiple shelters opened,” Hoeflich said. “It really makes good sense to have those connected to the site involved.”
Hoeflich said “spontaneous” volunteers typically show up in the event of weather damage, and are also important to the response of the Red Cross. Those people are used to assist the trained volunteers, she said.
Volunteers are required to take several basic classes through the Red Cross. Those completing classes in mass care and sheltering would be available to pitch in if an emergency were to arise, Hoeflich said.
The next set of disaster training classes is scheduled to start March 30 at 6 p.m. in the training room of the Red Cross. There is no fee to take the classes. Those interested can register by calling 397-6300.