Trainees to put disaster skills to work for hurricane victims

September 02, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

This will be the second tour of disaster duty for American Red Cross volunteer Carrie Colangelo of Chambersburg, Pa.

Colangelo will be training today at a Red Cross chapter in Harrisburg, Pa., preparing to head south to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Another Red Cross volunteer training session is scheduled today in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Washington County's chapter is having an eight-hour training session Sept. 20. The same lessons will be broken into four-hour sessions Oct. 13 and 14.

Colangelo said she spent three months in Florida in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew struck. She was living in the Florida Keys, planning to go to nursing school. But school was postponed, giving her the chance to help.


Colangelo, 41, has that chance again. She's a junior at Wilson College in Chambersburg, working toward a bachelor's degree in sociology.

Today, at 2 p.m., her training begins. After that, she must be ready to go wherever she's needed within 24 hours.

"I probably should be more nervous than I am, but when I throw myself into my work, I do it," Colangelo said.

Based on her experience in Florida in 1992, she's ready to give out diapers, make sandwiches and whatever else - with heat and humidity, no air conditioning, no showers or primping.

"But it's worth it," she said.

At least one other Chambersburg resident was among the 268 people, as of Wednesday, who had signed up for training in Harrisburg, chapter spokeswoman Angie Dearolf said.

Sessions will continue Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m.

Would-be volunteers at the Berkeley County chapter in Martinsburg have been teaching themselves two training units, "Introduction to Disaster Services" and "Mass Care," through videotapes, said Jon Jarrell, the chapter's executive director.

The chapter is holding a class on shelter operations today at 9 a.m. After completing that third part, volunteers will be ready for service, Jarrell said.

He's expecting between 12 and 30 people from his chapter to be sent to the South to help.

Residents in south Berkeley County might instead go to the Winchester-Frederick County (Va.) chapter, which is training volunteers, too, said Tootie Rinker, the chapter's executive director.

Washington County isn't training people right away because Cindy Blackstock, the chapter's director of emergency services, had already committed to taking time off. She just closed on a house and is moving in.

The timing isn't good, but Blackstock stressed that the hurricane relief effort "is going to be a long-term, ongoing operation" that will require volunteers for a while.

A Washington County resident who wants training earlier can go to Frederick County, Md., which is holding a session Monday.

Other local Red Cross chapters in Pennsylvania and West Virginia contacted Thursday didn't have immediate plans to send or train volunteers.

The Red Cross is urging volunteers to pledge three weeks, but some chapters said they might accept less.

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