Red Cross focuses on natural disaster response
COLUMBIA - Missouri's the crosshairs for any number of natural disasters: tornadoes, floods and earthquakes.
The American Red Cross hosted a Collective Impact Summit on disasters in Columbia at the Stoney Creek Hotel from Wednesday, March 30 to Thursday, March 31. According to David Griffith, the executive director of the American Red Cross of Central and Northern Missouri, this was the first statewide conference of this nature and 86 emergency agencies were in attendance.
On Wednesday, the main event at the summit was a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) demonstration, where members of the 86 agencies volunteered to be mock victims of a disaster.
The Red Cross chose a tornado in the fictional town of Elmwood as the the disaster scenario for the MARC demonstration.
Griffith said while there was no specific event that triggered the conference, it is an important time for emergency agencies to be prepared.
"Of course we had the floods in Missouri last year, that left a lot of people displaced, and we're coming up on flood season again, as well as tornado season. In fact, I think some counties will be under a tornado warning [the night of the MARC demonstration]," Griffith said.
LaKeysha Fields is the disaster social services coordinator with the Salvation Army, Midland Division. Fields has seen MARCs in practice during disasters, and says the demonstration is very similar to a reality.
"Obviously in a real disaster there's a lot more tears, and there's spiritual and emotional counselors walking around offering support, but it is like this where there's lots of people at different agencies, waiting in line. More confusion in real life," she said.
Fields said a lot of times it's actually very difficult to convince victims of natural disasters that they need help and to accept it.
"I talked to this woman whose home was destroyed, and she was someone who had never wanted for anything before. In fact, she had actually donated to the Salvation Army before. I had to explain to her why it was okay for her to accept help now that she was in need, even though she's not the person that's in the most need in her opinion," she said.
Griffith said as Missouri approaches what he referred to as "disaster season," people and families need to have plans in case of an emergency.
"I think one of the most important things is to teach kids in elementary schools, high schools, anytime, what their family needs to do during a tornado or a flood. That way they come home and tell their parents what they learned and how important it is to have a plan. Parents will take that seriously," Griffith said.
The summit opened with a welcome address by Governor Nixon.
The summit will continue on Thursday, March 31 with disaster panels and breakout sessions for the emergency agency volunteers and workers.