Northland News

Summit helps everyone pitch in when disaster strikes

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Emergencies, by their very nature, crop up when least expected.

But that doesn't mean there's no reason to prepare for situations such as a major storm, a terrorist attack, a chemical spill, an outbreak of an infectious illness, or some other incident that could leave a portion of the public in need of assistance.

It isn't only the professionals and first-responders who should be prepared to pitch in when the unthinkable has to be thought about, area leaders say.

That's the purpose behind a special training opportunity to be offered for the first time in mid-February.

The Franklin County Citizens Corps Programs Volunteer Training Summit will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 16 in the Quest Business Centers, 8405 Pulsar Place.

"The summit will be a wonderful opportunity to meet volunteers from other groups within our area, to hear from some of the leading experts in the country on issues related to disaster management, emergency preparedness and public health, and to take part in a facilitated program which will simulate a disaster occurring and the appropriate response procedures," said Shaddy N. Swade, HandsOn Central Ohio disaster preparedness coordinator.

The daylong event is specifically geared for all volunteers from HandsOn Central Ohio, Franklin County and Columbus Medical Reserve Corps, Franklin County Community Emergency Response Team, Fire Corps, Volunteers in Police Service and Neighborhood Watch groups.

HandsOn Central Ohio officials are in the process of developing a plan for dealing with disasters and emergencies in the Northland area, a project that arose late last year during a series of nonprofit summit meetings and in the aftermath of an apartment fire in August that left many refugees homeless.

Swade said the Feb. 16 training summit is the brainchild of Columbus and Franklin County Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator Tessa Fite. She developed a similar effort in 2011 for members of her organization, which its website says is "dedicated to establishing teams of local volunteer medical, public health and other professionals to contribute their skills and expertise during times of disaster and public health emergency, as well as throughout the year for community health promotion."

"We definitely take an all-hazards approach to our training," Fite said. "We are looking to train our volunteers who are already affiliated with these programs. We're reaching out to people who already have an interest in preparedness."

"We train them how do the little things in the community that can make all the difference in the world," Swade said.

The Feb. 16 gathering will be funded by a grant from the Department of Homeland Security that was applied for last spring and approved in the summer, Swade added.

A flier for the Citizens Corps Programs Volunteer Training Summit states that attendees will:

* Hear experts talk about the different roles that volunteers could participate in during an emergency.

* Discover how a disaster that strikes animals could also affect human health.

* Learn about climate change and how it is affecting natural disasters.

* Participate in a facilitated discussion and simulation of a volunteer response to a disaster.

"We do want to keep our volunteers engaged," Fite said.

Space is limited to about 120 participants and all slots may already be filled, but Swade said all the presentations will be saved as webinars in order to offer the training to those unable to attend Feb. 16.

Reservations may be sought at http://bit.ly/2013CCCsummit. For more information, call Swade at 614-221-6766, ext. 168, or email sswade@handsoncentralohio.org.

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