Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Neighborhood Evacuation Exercise Helps People Prepare

Red Cross volunteer Roger Bram directs the Emergency
 Response Vehicle for the Palmer Park neighborhood
evacuation exercise in Colorado Springs.
Photo  credit American Red Cross
Story by Leila Roch, American Red Cross

On Saturday morning, many residents in the Palmer Park neighborhood received a knock on their door and a reverse 911 phone call from police officers asking them to please leave their homes. They were evacuated and quickly ushered from their homes to Sabine Middle School.

Fortunately, flames were not the cause this evacuation.

In preparation for the wildfire season, the City of Colorado Springs organized a mock evacuation of the area with more than 160 families opting in. The Pikes Peak American Red Cross, Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region and Colorado Springs Salvation Army set up a mock shelter to assist and inform participants what to do and what is available to them in the event of a real evacuation.

Volunteers Peter Booth (l) and Rick Levis set up a cot for the
mock shelter at the Palmer Park neighborhood evacuation
exercise. Photo credit American Red Cross
“I think overall the response has been just really wonderful,” said Sally Broomfield, Pikes Peak American Red Cross disaster program manager. “People are really glad to know what we do, what the other agencies do and have an opportunity to practice. They come here they get a little brief and then we’ve set up a little demonstration shelter so that people can see what a shelter looks like if they actually have to evacuate.”

Volunteers debrief at the end of the Palmer Park
evacuation exercise in Colorado Springs.
 Photo credit American Red Cross
The morning of the drill more than 60 Red Cross volunteers organized to assist the 200-400 expected residents who would be coming through the school’s gymnasium, where volunteers had set up a mock shelter. As groups entered the gymnasium, they were escorted by a Red Cross tour guide who walked them through stations representing each service the Red Cross provides during a crisis – from food to mental health to its “Safe and Well” station, where residents can register to let loved ones know they are OK.

The Humane Society was also on site to help residents with pets familiarize themselves with the procedure of checking in their pets during an emergency. The Salvation Army provided breakfast to participating residents prior to the tours. And fire crews practiced staging, check-in and inter-agency operations in the neighborhoods. Thirty-one departments and agencies participated in the drill.

American Red Cross nursing volunteers Deborah Wetherill
 and Amy Dreher welcome exercise volunteer Mike
Nowak to the shelter nursing station during  the Palmer Park
 evacuation exercise in Colorado Springs, CO.
Photo credit American Red Cross
 “It’s so important,” Broomfield said. “We live in a really high risk area, and we’ve seen over the past few years what it looks like when large numbers of people have to evacuate.”

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