Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Frequent Evacuation Center Openings-Are we crying wolf?

Does it seem like the Red Cross is opening an evacuation center in Manitou Springs a lot this summer? Well it is true and there is a good reason for it. August 9, 2013 heavy rain fell on the Waldo Canyon burn scar. The heavy rain pushed mud and debris across US Highway 24 into the town of Manitou Springs. Dramatic video showed cars being pushed like toys as the water surged down the highway. People were stranded in cars for hours waiting for the water to recede. Homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. The American Red Cross was called to open a shelter for those affected by the floods and to provide support for recovery efforts.

Red Cross volunteers register Scott Townley at the
Historic Congregational Church in Manitou Springs
August 10, 2013. Photo by Denise Brill/American Red Cross
Since the floods that came in August 2013, the Red Cross has opened an evacuation center in Manitou Springs eight times and while to some it might seem like "crying wolf" in reality it is a significant effort to make sure that people have a place to go if they need to ride out the storm. "We worked closely with Manitou Springs, the National Weather Service, El Paso County officials and with the Colorado Department of Transportation to develop a response plan that would help keep people safe," said Sally Broomfield, Disaster Program Manager for the Red Cross Pikes Peak Chapter. "Anytime floods threaten or they close roads due to the potential for flooding we will have the evacuation center open."

Red Cross has worked closely with the Historic Congregational Church in Manitou Springs to recruit volunteers and to ensure that the church is available and ready for activation. They have also placed a cache of supplies at the church including cots, blankets and cleanup supplies just in case they are needed. Reverend David Hunting from the Historical Congregational Church in Manitou Springs has been an important part of the process. "The Red Cross has given us some excellent training about keeping the public safe," Reverend Hunting said. "The Red Cross has a name that is known around the world and it is great to have that symbol so visible in our community."

Far from crying wolf, these activations provide a tangible reminder to residents to take every flood threat seriously – you never know which storm will be the one – and opening the evacuation center not only provides for a safe place to ride out the storm, it also gives volunteers training and practice so they’re prepared for the worst. Check out the video below about recent volunteer training in Manitou Springs, Colo. The video was produced by Charlie Mussi of the Red Cross Pikes Peak Chapter.

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