Red Cross volunteers assess Broken Arrow 'tornado damage' to hone emergency response skills
BY MIKE AVERILL World Staff Writer
Saturday, March 02, 2013
3/02/13 at 5:45 AM
BROKEN ARROW - Red Cross volunteers canvassed a Broken Arrow neighborhood Friday to learn and refine their damage assessment skills and protocols.
The volunteers gathered the information in the Branch Creek subdivision, where every other house had a picture depicting varying amounts of tornado damage.
The drill was part of ongoing volunteer training to ensure they're ready any time a major disaster strikes, said Donita Quesnel, a spokeswoman for the Tulsa Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.
"When a major disaster hits, our first priority is to make sure the people are taken care of, that they have safe shelter and they have meals to eat and a place where they can gather themselves and their family and begin to gather plan for how they're going to proceed with their recovery," she said.
"Concurrent with that is planning for those services: How many people will we need to house? How many people will we need to serve meals to? How many breakfasts will we have? How many people need overnight accommodations and how many can stay in their homes?" Quesnel said. "So many questions come into play so we can plan and use our resources effectively and efficiently."
Damage assessment is a huge part in answering those questions. During the drill the volunteers worked in teams of four or five to conduct broad visual inspections and recorded what they saw to later compile the data. That is followed by a debriefing when the Red Cross determines what resources will be needed.
"It also allows us to look and see what areas we need to focus our training on," Quesnel said. "Perhaps we did really well at recording in the field but we weren't able to analyze it correctly when we got it back. It's really just a preparedness drill to make sure we're ready to go when the next disaster strikes."
For John Johnson, the drill was a just a refresher. A volunteer since 2006, his first live action was with Hurricane Ike, and he "hasn't missed many since."
"You get a little rusty if you don't do this all the time, so this keeps us tuned up," he said.
Friday's exercise was part of ongoing disaster-readiness training being conducted by chapters of the Red Cross throughout Oklahoma and Texas.
"It's critical that we have an accurate assessment of impacted homes as quickly as possible," said Brain Jensen, senior director of emergency services for the Eastern Oklahoma Regional Red Cross.
"It drives the entire Red Cross response."
Original Print Headline: Neighborhood drill keeps Red Cross volunteers ready
Mike Averill 918-581-8489
Red Cross volunteers Bernice Johnson (from left), Darla Ryan, John Johnson and Christina Rodriquez look over a damage description sheet as they and some 25 other volunteers canvass a four-square-block area of the Branch Creek neighborhood in Broken Arrow to test their damage-assessment skills and protocols Friday. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
A home in the Branch Creek subdivision in Broken Arrow serves as the stand-in for the damaged home depicted in the photo on the front lawn during a test exercise. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
Red Cross volunteer Christina Rodriquez grabs a damage description sheet as her teammates Darla Ryan (from left), John Johnson and Bernice Johnson catch up. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World