Brandon outreach coordinator, David Barker unpacks a Red Cross responder bag filled with supplies to help a family for 72 hours after a small disaster. Red Cross is launching the first Personal Disaster Assistance program in Westman. (MEGAN LANE / BRANDON SUN)
The Canadian Red Cross is getting ready to help with smaller-scale disasters in Westman.
Local volunteers attended a training session on Saturday to join the new Personal Disaster Assistance team. The program will work with families experiencing small disasters. Families will receive responder bags including blankets, teddy bears, hygiene kits and a step-by-step guide to recovery.
"We are working with other partners to make sure that we get people the help they need during times of crisis," said Cailin Hoddler, provincial lead of planning and response. "The program will offer families in crisis support for the first 72 hours, giving them time to make arrangements or contact insurance companies."
The team will be prepared to respond to small disasters like house fires or floods, tornadoes that only affect a few families, and highway accidents that leave someone stranded.
Similar programs are already in place throughout Canada, said Hoddler. A strong model that she has looked at is in place in Quebec.
Manitoba is a little late starting these types of teams, said Hoddler.
"This is just the pilot project for Manitoba," she said. "We are planning on having teams in Brandon, Dauphin and Swan River to start. Also looking to implement it in the North in Thompson, Flin Flon and The Pas."
Ten volunteers participated in the training on Saturday. They have all volunteered with Red Cross before and have been through other types of Red Cross training.
Leslie Kerschtien got involved as a Red Cross volunteer following the Boxing Day tsunami that affected many countries along the Indian Ocean. She had visited one of the communities the year before and wanted to help.
"I have not worked overseas yet, but I have been able to help with the responses to Manitoba and Alberta floods and British Columbia forest fires," Kerschtien said. "It is the whole interest of helping others, this has been a natural fit for me."
She is confident that the new Personal Disaster Assistance program will be beneficial to communities in Westman.
"We have a really high level of volunteer experience on the team," Kerschtien said. "I would most definitely encourage more people to volunteer. It is not a big time commitment, it is as much as you want."
Red Cross is continually recruiting more volunteers for a variety of disaster response programs. Hoddler said this is just the starting group for the Personal Disaster Assistance team and they will be looking for more volunteers as the project expands.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 16, 2014