How to find a shelter location 101

Story by Rick Graft, Debra Brooks and Khue Tran, American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region Disaster Relief Volunteers

A Red Cross logistics truck, or "LIRV", that responds to disasters. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

A Red Cross logistics truck, or “LIRV”, that responds to disasters. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

During recent flooding in Minnesota, Jordan High School was approved as a shelter site in case of human or natural disaster.  We want to share the story with you about how the site was selected and about some unplanned and terrific community outreach.

We wanted to show that the Red Cross was there to support the community, so we took the logistics truck rather than a regular car to Jordan High School. We parked the truck outside the main doors of the school. Once there, parents and students saw the Red Cross presence while we were in the high school doing the shelter evaluation work with school officials.  At the end of our visit, the principal kindly asked us if we could show her the truck contents.

Sample shelter kit supplies carried on a Red Cross logistics truck. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Shelter supplies carried on a Red Cross logistics truck. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

As we walked to the truck, Debra saw some students and parents and invited them to join us. When I opened the back door of the truck, they were impressed with what and how many supplies and kits we carried. This became a teaching moment to affirm our commitment to the community and how the Red Cross handles disaster responses.

One young teenage girl went from worrying about an unknown terrible thing happening in her school to a double-thumbs up because we were ready with disaster supplies. All the students and parents were pleased to help the Red Cross and they appreciated how the Red Cross would help them in return. They were grateful we wanted to help their community, and so this ended up being a public relations success.

Our visit gave us the opportunity to survey the site, to build trust and a partnership, and to learn from the local community of what they were experiencing and anticipating. As we do on all of our survey calls, we spent a little time explaining the bigger picture of how we would set up a shelter and how to use it. The benefit of sharing our story is that the community started to think with us, and came up with creative solutions and additional spaces that we would never think of by just looking at a floor plan.

Red Cross volunteer Rick Graft during recent flood damage assessment in Blakely Township, MN.

Red Cross volunteer Rick Graft assessing flood damage in Blakeley Township, MN, June 24, 2014. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

The school district superintendent signed the agreement as we completed the opening inspection.  The superintendent, principal, and custodian all brainstormed with us to find space and solutions to our anticipated needs, so we set up the expectation that they could be contacted 24/7 during an actual need for opening a shelter.

At the end of the day, we came away with a shelter partner who feels comfortable working with us and can tell others an important part of the Red Cross story.  And on a slightly humorous note, we did not have to do this at two in the morning during disaster response!

Click here to learn more about American Red Cross disaster relief.

About American Red Cross

The American Red Cross provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. The Northern Minnesota Region serves 4.3 million people in 45 counties in northern Minnesota and 3 counties in western Wisconsin.
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One Response to How to find a shelter location 101

  1. Audrey Waage says:

    Great story, Rick! Thanks to all involved.

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