The next time the Grundy County area is hit by a flood, snowstorm or other disaster, the community will be better prepared to offer shelter for those with homes that are destroyed.
The Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District, United Way of Grundy County, Grundy County Emergency Management Agency and the county are sponsoring a Partner Shelter Workshop to be taught by the American Red Cross.
The workshop is to train people on how to set up emergency shelter operations. The Red Cross has given the county a shelter trailer containing cots, bedding and other shelter needs.
So, when a shelter needs to be set up in a school, church, hall or any other location,supplies are ready.
But volunteers are needed to set up and operate the shelters.
The workshop is free and offered in two sessions: 9 to 11 a.m. Sept. 14, or 6 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 17. Both will be at Fire Station 2, 2301 Ashton Road, Morris.
“We have always recognized there is a bit of a hole in the ability to have a shelter for people for more than a few hours,” Morris Fire Chief Tracey Steffes said.
It is after those few hours when food, bedding and other necessities are needed that the county was lacking.
The need goes back before the April flooding to last February’s snowstorm, he said.
“The Red Cross has a lot of shelters it can offer, however a lot are out of the county,” Steffes said. “For local residents to get shelter in Will County or DuPage County, it can be burdensome.”
So Steffes asked the Red Cross for a shelter trailer. The one they received has cots and bedding for 120 people. It is currently being stored at Station 1 until the county addresses the need for a space for it.
The fire district and participating organizations are reaching out to churches, civic groups and any community member who wants to volunteer to help operate the shelters. Those who sign up for the workshop will have a background check, but the training is free.
“This will allow the first responders to do what they are trained to do,” Steffes said. “When first responders are setting up shelters, it is not a good use of resources.”
Steffes would like to see about 30 people sign up for the training so there are plenty of people to call when the need arises.
Denise Gaska, We Care of Grundy County executive director, is attending the workshop.
“I felt helpless at the time of the flood, and I saw an
opportunity to help create shelters during a disaster and thought this would be a great way to do something tangible when people are in need,” Gaska said.
Shelter volunteers will do more than just set up. They will also help with operations, since it is more than just giving people a place to stay. These victims have to be considered individually, he said. Families that have pets with them, and some people have special needs – from physical to dietary.
“With the trailer functional and the staff trained to set it up, we are in a better place then we were eight months ago,” Steffes said. “It takes the community to rally together if we have an event.”
The sessions will explain when and how shelters are opened, the roles and responsibilities of a shelter workers, what supplies are used and how to ensure that shelter clients are receiving the best possible accommodations following a disaster.
To attend the workshop, RSVP by Monday to RSVP@UWGrundy.org. Include your name, agency/organization, phone, email address and session choice.