The Canadian Red Cross is recruiting volunteers in Beiseker who can respond when a disaster besets their community.
“What we’re hoping to do in the community, as we’ve been doing in a variety of communities throughout Rocky View County (RVC) and across the province, is to inform people and let them know about the volunteer opportunities that we have with the Red Cross in emergency management,” said Carmen Werbowetsky, provincial manager of emergency management for Alberta and Northwest Territories.
According to Werbowetsky, the organization wants to increase the volunteer numbers in places that have been identified with a higher risk for certain types of emergencies and disasters. In the case of Beiseker, Werbowetsky said the community has been identified as an area particularly susceptible to severe winter storms that result in road closures.
“It can be difficult to bring in volunteers from outside the community, because, physically, they can’t get in,” she said. “[We’re] looking at building those volunteer numbers and having a team ready within the community, so when those events occur, we can draw some experience in the local community who are there and available quickly to support whatever disaster could potentially be happening."
Werbowetsky added volunteers would be equipped to respond to any incident that may take place in Beiseker, be it grass fires, tornadoes or train derailments. Red Cross is looking specifically for Emergency Response Team (ERT) volunteers in the village.
“These are people that would be trained and available to support a disaster, an evacuation or an incident within their own community,” she said.
Local volunteers are vital, Werbowetsky said, because they are both closer in proximity to local disasters, and add an aspect of emotional support when an emergency takes place in their community.
“When evacuees are coming into a centre, they might recognize a neighbour or a friend or a family [member] that’s a volunteer, and it brings much more comfort to them when they’re going through a traumatic time,” she said.
Potential volunteers will undergo a screening and onboarding process, Werbowetsky said, which includes basic emergency management training, with some online and some classroom components.
“The time commitment really depends on when, where, how long and what the disasters are, when it comes to the actual on-the-ground work,” she said. “The ideal scenario is there’s no disaster…but the reality is, disasters know no time frames and no boundaries, and they can happen at any point in time. So, the expectation would be, should an event happen in their community, they would try to be available to support that disaster.”
Red Cross will be participating in the Beiseker Community Connections event Sept. 12 from 5 to 7:30 p.m., with a booth for residents to learn more about volunteering with the organization. A Red Cross staff member and local volunteers will be on hand to share volunteer opportunities, Werbowetsky said.
She added anyone interested in learning more or signing up as a Red Cross volunteer – before or after the Community Connections event – can go to redcross.ca/volunteer or contact Carmen Toole – a Red Cross staff member dedicated to RVC – at email@example.com or 403-498-5971.
Red Cross has been successful with recruitment pushes elsewhere in RVC this year. Information sessions held in Bragg Creek and Langdon in July garnered interest in those areas and the organization is currently onboarding volunteers, according to Werbowetsky.
“We expect to see a good contingent of folks come through our training course at the beginning of October,” she said.