By Ricardo Tomboc, American Red Cross volunteer
On June 3 and 4, the American Red Cross Southern California Region conducted a two-day exercise scenario simulating a 6.8 earthquake. The scenario called for the earthquake to be centered one mile east of Cabazon. The simulated earthquake lasted for 90 seconds with the most intense shock waves affecting San Bernardino, Riverside, Imperial, and Orange Counties. With the simulation consisting of major damage to the water mains, electrical power, and buildings, the Red Cross set up “live active shelters” in San Bernardino, San Diego, Moreno Valley and Tustin areas.
Although many people know of the Red Cross from its blood donation services, they also respond to thousands of small and large disasters every year. The Red Cross of San Bernardino County serves 24 incorporated cities and about 2.2 million people. The San Bernardino Chapter is part of the Red Cross Southern California Region that serves San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial Counties.
At the San Bernardino shelter, about 45 volunteers and role players acted out real life scenarios; giving both new and experienced Red Cross volunteers challenges to sharpen their skills and prepare for future real disasters. Throughout the exercise, role players changed up the scenarios to test the volunteer staff and encourage them to come up with various solutions. In addition, several interjections were spontaneously given including aftershocks, power outages and cell phone failures to help prepare the volunteers for other challenging scenarios. These exercises are conducted to test local disaster response preparedness and effectiveness, which can help volunteers gain experience and training to improve their skills for future events. In addition to the earthquake exercise, Red Cross volunteers took part in a damage assessment exercise, which would be a necessity to determine those who were affected, needs, and to allocate responses.
A typical shelter operation includes trained Red Cross volunteers to conduct logistic operations, registration of clients (those impacted by disasters), dormitory staff, feeding staff, disaster mental health, disaster spiritual care, disaster health services, and many others on the front lines as well as behind the scenes at the Emergency Operations Centers (EOC). Responding to disasters is a team effort, and during a Red Cross response it is also common to have several outside agencies partner at the shelter providing various additional services to those in need.
Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members from the City of Chino partnered and participated in the exercise. However, during a real-life disaster of this magnitude, the Red Cross would not only rely on local partnerships, but also deploy from hundreds of trained volunteers from throughout the United States, bringing equipment and supplies from local, state, and national resources. Partnering with other non-profit and volunteer organizations like CERT, Southern Baptists, Salvation Army, and many others allows the Red Cross to synergize its efforts and to complete its mission. Several partner organizations like CERT have had Red Cross shelter training. These trained members can fill in and/or open a shelter for clients while the Red Cross gathers its volunteers and other resources.
The mission of the American Red Cross is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of doners. The Red Cross is not a government agency, and relies on the generosity of financial donors and volunteers to fulfill its mission.
Volunteers comprise more than 90% of the Red Cross disaster workforce and make it possible for the Red Cross to respond to those in need. To become a Red Cross volunteer, go to redcross.org/volunteer. In San Bernardino County, call 909-360-5918 for additional information.