It’s the end of February, and hurricane season is just around the corner.
Officials with the American Red Cross, Hawaii Chapter, have a memorandum of understanding with leaders from the state Department of Education to open and staff shelters during disasters.
In Hawai’i, the majority of shelters are schools, and it is the Red Cross leaders’ intention to develop shelter teams for each school, said Rike Weiss, mass-care coordinator of the Red Cross in the state.
Weiss pointed out that each team would consist of some school staff members of two to four people, as they know the campus best, along with parents, students, and community members.
Weiss noted that Red Cross leaders provide a basic, three-hour, shelter-operations training course that prepares people sufficiently to function on a team.
Once shelter-operations training is completed, volunteers are eligible to take free CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and first-aid classes.
Weiss pointed out that, with so many folks being stretched to the limit by demands on their time, it is difficult to commit to one more thing. Still, disaster-preparedness needs to be a top priority for residents.
Weiss recently visited with principals of Kapa’a High, Kapa’a Middle, and Kapa’a Elementary schools, and plans to set up a training session at the elementary school soon.
She pointed out that the Red Cross leaders’ goal is to also find and train teams for Kapa’a High and Kapa’a Middle schools.
A hurricane shelter opens when Civil Defense officials contact Red Cross leaders. In turn, Red Cross leaders get in touch with members of trained volunteer teams, and ask those team members to show up at the shelter.
“We start registering people who come to the shelter. Registration is one of the most important things that takes place, so that we have a record of who is there, and be able to answer questions when people call to find out if their loved ones or friends are there,” said Weiss.
Alfred Darling, executive director of the Kaua’i Chapter of the Red Cross, pointed out that people going to shelters should bring blankets and pillows, extra clothes, medication, and at least 72 hours’ worth of food that can be eaten without cooking, along with snacks.
Darling indicated that hurricane season begins in June and goes through November, but that doesn’t mean that something may not happen outside of that time frame.
He noted that, if there’s a tsunami, no shelters will be open prior to a tsunami hitting the island.
“We may open shelters afterwards, depending on the needs,” he said.
Darling indicated that, currently, 14 schools and neighbor-hood centers scattered throughout the island are designated as hurricane shelters.
The executive director of the island’s Red Cross pointed out that there are roughly 60,000 residents, plus visitors, who could end up at those 14 hurricane shelters.
Darling noted that there are about 300 Red Cross volunteers, but more are needed, especially those who live near shelters.
“We can go through 300 people in one day, who work six- to eight-hour shifts. We are constantly recruiting, and volunteers can become victims as well. The more people (trained as shelter volunteers), the better,” said Darling.
Darling noted that the Red Cross is looking for volunteers who care about helping their neighbors in times of need.
“Red Cross can only help the community if the community is involved with the Red Cross. If they want to be able to help someone affected by a disaster, then getting involved with the Red Cross helps them get ready to respond to a disaster,” he said.
Training for volunteers is free, said Darling.
To volunteer or for more information, call Darling at 245-4919