Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

March 1, 2013

Saturday's mock tornado drill prepares volunteers to deal with dangerous storms

TYLER —  You know the drill. Or do you?

On Saturday, more than 40 chapters of the  American Red Cross – as in, 700 disaster settlement volunteers spread across Texas and Oklahoma – will conduct the very first multi-state disaster drill.

This is basically training to deal with the plethora of tornadoes, thunderstorms and wildfires that regularly threaten Texas and adjoining states.

Saturday's mock disaster will consist of a devastating – but simulated – tornado outbreak. The bulk of the local drill takes place in Tyler. But a tornado in Jacksonville also is expected to be part of Saturday’s scenario.

It's taken some planning to execute. There have been neighborhoods already selected to participate in the drill, according to a news release.

The “damage” caused by the “storm” during the drill will be represented by images placed on stakes driven into the ground in front of each involved home.  Participants will be charged with evaluating "damage" and relaying that very crucial information to their Red Cross superiors.

“It’s critical that we have an accurate assessment of impacted homes as quickly as possible,” Tammy Prater, American Red Cross spokesman, explained in the release. “That step tells us how many meals need to be prepared, how many volunteers need to be activated, how many shovels and rakes we need to have on hand and so much more. It drives the entire Red Cross response.”

Saturday’s exercise will include the help of the Cherokee County Ham Radio Club, the Smith County Amateur Radio Club and the East Texas Emergency Communi-cations Services.

In Tyler, the American Red Cross volunteers will report to the Smith County Chapter office  at 8 a.m. Saturday. There will be a briefing and volunteers will hit the bricks about 10 a.m.

The drill should last until noon, followed by an after-action review between noon and 2 p.m.

“Without question, this drill will help the Red Cross be better prepared for future disasters,” Prater elaborated in the release. “We saw with the outbreaks in DFW and Woodward, Oklahoma last year that disasters can and do affect both of our states. The more we train through exercises like this one, the better we can help our neighbors when they truly need us.”

To inquire about becoming a trained Red Cross volunteer, go to www.redcross.org join the blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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