Red Cross calling all volunteers


Canadian Red Cross in Alberta is in search of volunteers, and on March 23 residents of the Lakeland can learn how they can lend a hand when disaster strikes.

Whether it’s a large or small-scale disaster, Red Cross is there in the case of an emergency. Helping families flee from their homes when floods, wildfires, or other tragedies hit communities, they provide support systems in that time of need.

Currently, there are about 20 Red Cross volunteers in Cold Lake and the surrounding area, but they still need more.

Through their information session on Thursday, March 23, Red Cross is hoping to have more residents on board. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Cold Lake and District FCSS, and will enlighten people about disaster management and what they can do to help.

“We will be providing information to the general population about what volunteer options are available, what kind of training is available and what it entails to be a disaster management volunteer,” said Vishva Ragunaphan, community outreach associate for northeastern Alberta.

Ragunaphan continued that people will also learn the requirements of being a volunteer, such as the mandatory monthly meetings, and the other Red Cross programs available to volunteers.

Speakers who have responded to varying levels of disasters will also be on hand to share their stories and experiences.

The volunteer-based organization is focused on finding volunteers for disaster management in northeastern Alberta. Anyone who signs-on as a volunteer would be helping disaster victims with food, clothing and shelter. In some cases, they will be asked to travel outside of their area.

“They could be deployed anywhere, either across Alberta or across the country,” Ragunaphan explained.

Using Fort McMurray as an example, he described the process of responding to a disaster. Red Cross put out a call to all northeastern Alberta volunteers, asking them to deploy to the area to help families find a temporary home and basic necessities.

Volunteers from across Canada responded to the call and flocked to Alberta to do what they could for the over 80,000 residents.

By being part of the Red Cross, Ragunaphan said you are learning how to help your community in case of a disaster, such as the wildfires in Fort McMurray.

“Disasters are increasing by the day, and we want people to be involved in their community by helping out their community through the Red Cross. We all need to be prepared. It starts individually and then it comes to a community level, where we could all be prepared as a community to respond and help.”

Red Cross realized there was a need for volunteers in the area after wildfires broke out in Saskatchewan in 2015, sending thousands of evacuees to Cold Lake. At the time, the area only had two Red Cross volunteers.

“We had to deploy volunteers from across Alberta, across the country, even from the United States, to come out and help. (It was then) we realized we needed to build our volunteer capacity in Cold Lake,” Ragunaphan noted.

Shortly after, the organization held a recruitment drive, similar to the one coming up on March 23. Over 18 residents signed up following that event.

Anyone interested in volunteering must be at least 18-years-old. Red Cross will run a criminal record check through the RCMP prior to signing anyone on.

Ragunaphan emphasized that the more volunteers the community has, the more prepared the area is for a disaster in its own backyard, not to mention the possibility of hosting evacuees of a neighbouring community.

For more information, or to register for the information night, call the Cold Lake and District FCSS at 780-594-4495.


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