‘Once you’ve worked a disaster, it’s in your blood’

February 25, 2008

Training sessions set to become a Salvation Army disaster responder

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

In the past two years, members of the Dassel-Cokato community have stepped up to help natural disaster victims by volunteering their time.

“Once you’ve worked a disaster, it’s in your blood,” said Kim Sheets, the Salvation Army field representative for southwest Minnesota.

At the end of March, the Salvation Army is offering a two-day emergency disaster training session to prepare volunteers to respond when disaster strikes.

Until now, most of the focus has been training individuals in the metro area. But in all actuality, natural disasters are more likely to occur in rural Minnesota, according to Sheets.

“There are so many folks out here that want to help, but don’t want to drive to the Cities for classes,” Sheets said.

Classes will take place at the Southwest Initiative Foundation Building on the corner of Highway 7 and 22 in Hutchinson, Thursday and Friday, March 27 and 28 from 8 a.m. to about 4 p.m.

Upon completion of the free, two-day training, volunteers will receive a badge with picture identification.

Sheets noted that in recent disasters, such as the Buffalo Lake tornado in 2003, there has been a different pattern evident.

Yes, there are volunteers willing to come out and help, but there were others who weren’t there to help, but instead, to loot.

Now, when disaster hits a particular location, the National Guard is contacted immediately to respond and block off the area.

No one is allowed into the disaster area other than residents and volunteers with the proper identification, Sheets said.

Volunteers responding to disasters such as flooding, tornadoes, and even fires, may be provided with housing, meals, and support services.

During the training, volunteers will first learn “Salvation Army 101.”

Many don’t even know what the Salvation Army is or that it’s a faith-based relief organization, Sheets said.

Though the Salvation Army provides relief and disaster assistance, it is not a “first responder,” but “supports” first responders.

It is supported solely by donations and provides mass-care support, according to the Salvation Army web site.

The role of the Salvation Army is to provide the basic needs for those affected by the disaster including the survivors and first responders.

To do this, a canteen or mobile kitchen is set up, serving meals out of a truck. This will be discussed further during the training session.

Like grieving, there are different stages a person goes through during a disaster, Sheets said.

Many times, the survivor will need a kind ear to listen to their story, she explained.

The session will also determine what skills a volunteer has and where they should be assigned.

“We don’t want to put you where you are uncomfortable,” she said.

Sheets recalls responding to the 9/11 attacks.

“They wanted me to drive a 15-passenger van to New York,” Sheets said. Having grown up in Litchfield, she wasn’t too comfortable with that, she said.

The training will not only qualify volunteers to respond to disasters in Minnesota, but all over the US.

The Salvation Army’s goals are to provide material, physical, emotional, and spiritual comfort.

With each disaster different from another, the Salvation Army provides both immediate emergency assistance and long-term recovery help.

With the summer flooding in southeastern Minnesota, the lack of media coverage has people assuming the situation is over with, Sheets said. When in all actuality, The Salvation Army is still there providing services.

Since the class size is limited, Sheets advises those interested to call and register at (507) 326-5017.

For more information about the Salvation Army, check out www.salvationarmyusa.org.

Emergency disaster training classes coming up in Hutchinson

The Salvation Army is hosting a free training session for anyone interested in volunteering for future disaster relief. The session is scheduled for Thursday, March 27 and Friday, March 28 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Southwest Initiative Foundation Building, located at the corner of Highway 7 and 22 in Hutchinson.

Class size is limited, but depending on response, a second session could be scheduled.

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