MARSHALL - The Prairie Winds chapter of the American Red Cross is forming disaster response teams as part of its "Neighbors Helping Neighbors" program.
The Red Cross plans to set up COMDAT (Community Disaster Action Teams) of at least five volunteers for each of five disaster centers set up in the region including Lyon, Lincoln, Yellow Medicine, and Pipestone counties, according to Prairie Winds Executive Director Colleen Grothem.
"Basically it goes back to the concept that in good old Minnesota when something happens, people in the community will spring into action," Grothem said.
The disaster centers will serve as supply depots storing cots and bedding, food, water, first aid and medical kits - enough to set up a shelter for up to 25 people.
Volunteers are required to take an eight-hour training course composed of four classes, according to Grothem.
The first class is an introduction to the Red Cross and how it functions in an emergency.
The second teaches damage assessment.
"When disaster happens, people show up and want to help, but they need to be safe," Grothem said.
The class teaches volunteers safety protocol around everything from downed power lines to buildings with structural damage.
The third class teaches client assistance, how to supply the basic needs: food, clothing and shelter.
The fourth class is an in-depth introduction to setting up a shelter, administratively and functionally.
Managing a shelter involves not just setting up rows of cots, but preparing food according to public health standards, keeping track of clients, some of whom may be small children.
Once trained, volunteers can pursue further training if they desire, from preparing food to learning to drive an Emergency Response Vehicle, Grothem said. They can choose any level of involvement on a scale of local, southwest Minnesota region, statewide, midwest regional and national.
"When Katrina hit we sent 21 area people down," Grothem said.
Training has been scheduled on the following dates:
8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at the Marshall Boy Scout Center/American Red Cross building in Marshall
8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Tyler Fire Hall in Tyler
Grothem said the Red Cross is always in need of more volunteers and in dire need of nurses. Any shelter set up must have a nurse on staff.