Disaster basic training was held for interested volunteers at Gates Hall in Nevada July 17. Eleven people were in attendance to learn skills that would help police, fire and EMS crews in case of an emergency in Nevada. Those trained would be part of a crew to help organize volunteer efforts for things like debris cleanup after a devastating storm or sandbagging near a river to minimize flood damage.
"A lot of times, the amount of people showing up can be like a disaster within a disaster," said Betty Boccella, RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) volunteer coordinator. RSVP usually only works with residents 55 and older, but makes an exception for these cases.
Boccella and her staff worked with Story County Emergency Management to determine what volunteers could do to help in an emergency.
The two primary roles will be to operate a non-emergency phone bank and to staff a volunteer reception center.Trained volunteers would use a place like Gates Hall, where "spontaneous" volunteers would report and then go out in teams to provide whatever help is needed around the community. Since the venue was chosen as Nevada’s designated area, the drill addressed how a floor plan might look to best direct the spontaneous volunteers entering Nevada from outside the community. Volunteers also discussed how communications might be affected in the event of a tornado or other severe weather event.
Boccella went on to say that Story County is one of the first in Iowa to implement a system like this that trains volunteers in case of an emergency. This way, these trained individuals can direct assistance where it needs to go, freeing up police, fire and EMS personnel to use their specialized training where it’s most needed.
"The system is designed after what’s been successful in Florida, with all their experience with hurricanes there," said Boccella.
This is the organization’s first time working in Nevada, but they’ve worked with volunteers in Ames and also plan to work with volunteers in Story City and Huxley.
Anyone interested in being trained as a volunteer should contact the RSVP office at 515-292-8890 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The next basic training will be held in Nevada in August, with another drill like last week’s taking place in September.