Locally, nationally, and internationally, the Canadian Red Cross is a symbol of relief in the face of disaster.
In a disaster situation when a speedy response time could mean the difference between life and death, it’s vital to have supplies and trained personnel ready to dispatch to the scene of an emergency.
A new Red Cross Disaster Management Centre in St. John’s will considerably increase the response capacity of the organization, not only in the Avalon region, but right across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
According to a press release from the Canadian Red Cross, the centre, which is scheduled for completion in early 2013, will more than double the size of the existing provincial headquarters allowing for more storage of propositioned supplies.
Moreover, new training facilities will allow volunteers to train from their homes through distance education with links to Red Cross offices in Corner Book and Grand Falls-Windsor.
The new section will also be equipped with backup power generators, and additional telecommunications equipment.
Linda Kelland is the district community supervisor for central Newfoundland with the Canadian Red Cross.
Though the main facility for the region is located in Grand Falls-Windsor, Kelland said it covers a geographic area from Glovertown to Springdale and Harbour Breton to Fogo.
With a new campaign to increase the number of Red Cross volunteers in the province from 250 to 700, Kelland said the capacity for teleconferencing and online training sessions will help with the recruitment of new volunteers.
“We’re entering into a time in our society where technology will become the preferred mode of training, ad we’re finding our volunteers prefer to have access to that independence through their computers,” said Kelland. “So we’re stepping up to the plate to provide that.”
Kelland added that because most Red Cross personnel are unpaid volunteers, being able to do some training from home, especially in remote areas with no training centers, will mean people don’t have to miss work, or incur travel expenses to train.
“By having people on the ground in these strategic locations, the needs of affected people will be met in the immediate until we can get additional support on the ground.”
She said the new conferencing abilities will also help with sharing knowledge between centres
“For example if we have a spettttcialist in to speak with us about a certain area of disaster management, and that specialist happens to be located in the Grand Falls-Windsor office, then other disaster management volunteers will be able to access through video conferencing that particular line of training,” said Kelland.
In terms of supplies, Kelland said having more storage for predisposition supplies in the province will make it easier to dispatch the supplies to where they need to be.
“As with any predisposition there has to be a centralized location, from that location those goods can be dispersed during an emergency response,” she said. “So what this does is gives us the ability to increase the supplies we can (mobilize) throughout the province.”
Supplies that include things like blankets, cots, flood clean up kits, and personal hygiene products, said Kelland.
The centre, which will be named the Hibernia Training and Disaster Management centre, is the result of a 2.2 million dollar fundraising initiative with one quarter being raised by the Hibernia Management.
Grand Falls-Windsor’s Tech Duck Pond Operations also helped with the campaign, according to Kelland, with a $150,000 donation.
“I’d like to thank the corporate partners who came on board to support this campaign, and thanks to our volunteers, existing and future, who ensure the work of the Red Cross can be done.”
For more information about the Canadian Red Cross, or to become a volunteer, visit www.redcross.ca.