40 Communities Trained in First Year of Shelter Initiative

40 Communities Trained in First Year of Shelter Initiative
This initiative combines the resources and expertise of the American Red Cross with the commitment to help ones neighbors that we see in rural communities across our region.

Inspired by Tropical Storm Irene’s widespread devastation, it was a year ago this week that the Vermont & the New Hampshire Upper Valley American Red Cross kicked off its Local Disaster Shelter Initiative. In just one year’s time, 40 communities and close to 600 volunteers have taken an important step to strengthen local disaster preparedness through the Red Cross initiative.

Last September 7th, Waterbury, VT, became the first community to participate in the Vermont & the New Hampshire Upper Valley American Red Cross’s Local Disaster Shelter Initiative. On hand to kick off the program were Irene Recovery Officer Sue Minter and Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn. Marking a successful first year, this September 7th, Albany, VT, received training and equipment, becoming the 40th town to take part in the Red Cross project.

“This initiative combines the resources and expertise of the American Red Cross with the commitment to help ones neighbors that we see in rural communities across our region,” said Larry Crist, Regional Executive of the Vermont & the New Hampshire Upper Valley American Red Cross. “The bottom line is better prepared and more resilient communities in the face of disaster.”

With more than two hundred towns across Vermont impacted by Tropical Storm Irene, thirteen of them cut off for several days with little or no warning, the Red Cross realized it needed to bring some fresh thinking to community preparedness. Through the Local Disaster Shelter Initiative, the Vermont & the New Hampshire Upper Valley American Red Cross rethought how it works with small towns in combatting the challenges created by storm conditions, road conditions and the availability of trained Red Cross volunteers.

This Red Cross initiative empowers communities to open local Red Cross shelters quickly and independently. With the necessary equipment and training being provided by the American Red Cross (estimated at $3,500 per town), individual communities recruit local volunteers to staff the shelters.

As noted, Albany, VT, has become the 40th community to receive the training as part of the Local Disaster Shelter Initiative. Over the next one to two years, the Red Cross looks to provide another 80 to 90 towns with equipment and training through the initiative. This would bring the total served by the program to approximately one half of the communities within the Vermont & the New Hampshire Upper Valley American Red Cross region.

For any interested community who has not already been in contact with the American Red Cross, they are encouraged to contact the Initiative’s coordinator, Larry Kupferman, at 802-660-9130, ext. 113 or larry.kupferman@redcross.org.

The initiative began to fall into place in the immediate wake of Tropical Storm Irene when Green Mountain Coffee Roasters stepped forward with a generous, forward-thinking gift to the American Red Cross of $125,000. The intent of the gift was to support planning and implementation of community shelters, allowing this initiative to go from the drawing board to reality. The GMCR gift recognized that we could learn from Irene and create some good from otherwise devastating circumstances. Green Mountain Coffee was joined by significant donations from Simon Pearce and other corporate, foundation and individual partners.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.