POSTED: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 4:43pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 4:44pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (AMERICAN RED CROSS) - — Facing what is predicted to be active hurricane season, Louisiana needs you to volunteer.
Almost every year in our state, hurricanes drive people from their homes in search of safety. American Red Cross volunteers are always there to help, but more volunteers are needed to provide care to those in crisis.
Across the state on July 30, the Red Cross will offer training in disaster services overview and mass care, such as sheltering, feeding and bulk distribution.
“Volunteers are always moving, changing jobs, having kids – It’s not like we ever have enough,” said Jane Morgan, state disaster officer for the Red Cross in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Louisiana residents often will respond after a disaster, but it’s critical to register and receive training in advance so that response is not delayed. Trained human resources allow Louisiana to take care of itself, and decrease the need of others to respond from out of the area, which takes time.
“The great thing about it is anybody can take training and go help,” said Clay Smilie, who volunteered with his wife during Hurricane Gustav. “You don’t have to be special. Anyone can do it who wants to. Whether retired or working, you can still help. The only qualification you have to have is the willingness to help others during a time of need.”
Volunteers can complete their application at home or work and take some training online via www.batonrouge.redcross.org/volunteer . Classroom-style training is ongoing.
The Red Cross is working closely with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to find more shelter space and capacity.
“Shelter is more than the space, walls, ceiling. It is people helping each other, too,” Morgan said.
For example, every shelter needs the support of health and mental health professionals. RNs, LPNs, EMTs, first responders and doctors receive additional Red Cross training to assist in their volunteer role.
Other volunteers are needed to organize a shelter, serve food, distribute supplies and work with families separated during the disaster.
“Evacuees are facing uncertainty and maybe worried about loved ones,” Morgan said. “People giving their time to share a hug, offer a meal, give reassuring words and being there is just an immeasurable value. They can’t take away the anguish, but they can show concern.”
If you need help, the Red Cross is there. If you can help, the Red Cross needs you.
Get started as a volunteer
1. Print your application from www.batonrouge.redcross.org/application-packet  and fill it out. (Complete the background check too.)
2. Register for training on July 30 at your area Red Cross chapter via www.batonrouge.redcross.org/volunteer .
3. To prepare for that day, take Disaster Services Overview Part 1 via www.batonrouge.redcross.org/volunteer  at home or at work. (Additional training is available online.)