Red Cross volunteers joined with the city of Colorado Springs, Fire Department and Police Department for a neighborhood wildfire evacuation drill Sept. 18, 2014. The drill took place in the Pulpit Rock neighborhood and began around 9 a.m. with reverse 911 calls, lights flashing and sirens blaring in the small neighborhood on the northeast side.
Residents were told to evacuate to a nearby middle school where they received a briefing from city agencies and toured a demonstration shelter set up by the Red Cross.
The drill was coordinated by the city of Colorado Springs Emergency Management, Police and Fire Department to give residents of Pulpit Rock some real world experience with an evacuation. The goal according to Kim Melchor, Lead Communications Specialist for Colorado Springs was to get people involved and show them how to prepare and respond to emergencies.
Red Cross volunteers set up a demonstration shelter that gave residents a chance to see what a Red Cross shelter would look like and services that would be available.
"We also wanted to train our new volunteers." said Rich Garcia, Mass Care Lead for the Pikes Peak Chapter. Experienced volunteers were given the role of mentor and new volunteers were then rotated through various shelter responsibilities that ranged from setting up sleeping cots, to feeding to client registration. “This was the first time we had set up a training shelter with real and pretend clients,” said Garcia. “It was a win for us at the Red Cross and a win for the residents of Pulpit Rock.”
Americorps workers also participated in the drill serving as pretend evacuees and the Salvation Army feeding coach provided breakfast, coffee and snacks to the workers and to the Pulpit Rock residents who participated.
Following a briefing about evacuations, preparedness and emergency response provided by Colorado Springs agencies the neighborhood residents toured the Red Cross demonstration shelter. There was a common statement uttered by the residents, “I didn’t know what a Red Cross shelter would look like or how the process worked.”
Red Cross volunteers were stationed at specific demonstration areas and as residents toured the volunteers would explain what their specific role would be in a real shelter. The sleeping cots were a popular item among the residents and many wanted to see how comfortable the cot would be. “Actually it was not that bad,” said Pam Harlor, a resident from the neighborhood. “It would be much better than sleeping on the floor or in your car.”
The neighborhood drill was a huge success and the residents expressed high praise and thanks to all the agencies that participated. “It means so much more when you experience something in person,” said resident John Graff. “I have had the classroom training but this is much better. Other neighborhoods should get this opportunity.”