Atmosphere

Red Alert

Local and national organizations need your help responding to disasters.

February 2010

Over the past 11 years, 69-year-old Daniel Mosley has seen his fair share of Colorado heartache. He talked with survivors in the aftermath of the Columbine massacre, helped victims create action plans when tornadoes hit the towns of Holly and Windsor, and counseled passengers after the Continental plane crash at Denver International Airport in 2008. A licensed psychologist, the soft-spoken Mosley volunteers with the American Red Cross' disaster mental-health team—a subset of the disaster action team, which responds to thousands of disasters, big and small, each year.

Relief efforts for disasters ranging from blizzards to wildfires and hurricanes call for a massive influx of volunteers, like Mosley, to help those affected. But the Red Cross—which responds to a disaster in Colorado every 21 hours—as well as organizations like the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), can't fulfill relief missions unless volunteers sign up in advance. "You have to get trained with the Red Cross before a disaster happens," says Jim Rettew, chief communications officer for the Mile High Red Cross. "Once Hurricane Katrina hits, or once a Colorado blizzard is under way, it's too late. We can only use previously trained people during a disaster."

Prospective volunteers focus on an area of disaster recovery, and register for the required (but free) classes and workshops. Beyond prerequisite courses, like volunteer orientation, volunteers can broaden their expertise by enrolling in workshops such as international humanitarian law or psychological first aid. Signing up to provide relief is a true commitment: The class work alone can entail as many as 12 hours. "You do have to be dedicated to be a disaster response volunteer," Rettew says, explaining that sometimes the call to help feed 200 stranded people can come in the middle of a snowy night. "But people rely on the Red Cross for help, and the Red Cross is volunteer-driven."

And these days, with charitable donations down, nonprofits that handle emergencies are even more reliant on volunteers like Daniel Mosley, who works in a Littleton-based psychology group practice but offers to be on-call for the local Red Cross for as many as five weeks each year. "I get called in to help people regain control, to help them reclaim a sense of stability and security," says Mosley. "It's fulfilling and satisfying."

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

Donate
The American Red Cross relies on its legion of volunteers—1,700 in the Mile High chapter alone—to respond to disasters here in Colorado and across the country. But this foundation doesn't receive a dime from the federal government. Donate money and time to help support efforts ranging from disaster response teams to CPR classes and support for military families. 303-722-7474, www.coloradoredcross.org

Train
Sign up for CERT training sessions through the Denver Mayor's Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security or the Regional Transportation District. Volunteers receive training in disaster preparedness, first aid, fire suppression, search and rescue, team organization, and basic emergency management skills. OEMHS: 720-865-7600, www.denvergov.org/oem; RTD: 303-299-2650, www.rtd-denver.com

Prepare
Visit the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Emergency Preparedness and Response Division's Web site to view and print the Emergency Preparedness Kit Calculator. This checklist will help you and your family be prepared for a pandemic or natural disaster. 303-692-2000, www.cdphe.state.co.us/epr