Twin Cities Community Emergency Response Team Learning to Deal With Disasters

  -Emily Akin-

Duane Rauch training on fire extinguisher use.

Did you feel the earthquake at 4:58 a.m. on Saturday, July 2, 2016? It was centered 5.6 miles northwest of Tiptonville. I didn’t, but it’s no surprise because the Ken-Tenn area is in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Experts say we could have a major quake or quakes like the ones that formed Reelfoot Lake in 1811-12. But an earthquake is just one possible emergency. More common disasters are flood, fire, infrastructure failure, civil unrest, or a tornado like the one that hit nearby Mayfield, Kentucky, earlier this year.

Are you prepared in the event of a major disaster? Most people think disaster preparedness is the government’s job. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state- and county-level agencies do take that responsibility, but citizen help is needed. Volunteer groups can work with government agencies in disaster response. To learn more about disaster preparedness and how to help in the aftermath, you might wonder how to get started.

There’s a newly-organized citizen group in the Fulton/South Fulton area called Twin Cities Community Emergency Response Team, a volunteer group operating on the VOAD model (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster). National and local VOAD “promotes cooperation, communication, coordination and collaboration to facilitate effective delivery of services to communities affected by disaster.”

The original Twin Cities VOAD group with Hugh Caldwell, Fulton County Emergency Management Director (second row, far right).

The Twin Cities VOAD group was organized under the direction of Hugh Caldwell, emergency management director for Fulton County, Kentucky. Duane Rauch is the leader, assisted by wife Kathi, and assistant leader, Karl Ivey. Their mission is “to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, to aid our families, neighbors, and friends in times of trouble (earthquake, flood, heavy weather conditions, or situations in which local authorities may require assistance).”

“In the event of a major earthquake, think how many bridges we have,” Duane said. “Fire and police workers might not be able to get to work because of damaged roads and bridges. Bringing supplies in by truck will be impossible. Think how many helicopter trips would be required to supply the thousands of people who live in our immediate area.” He recommends everyone be prepared to take care of their own families for an extended period and to help neighbors who might not be prepared. He recommends starting your preparedness plan by keeping a ten-day to two-week supply of basics like nonperishable food, water, medicines, and other essentials.

Kathi Rauch receiving instruction on how to use a fire extinguisher.

The Twin Cities volunteers’ disaster response plan includes establishing a central headquarters for administration and medical treatment, developing teams for search and rescue, and maintaining radio and other communications. They will conduct readiness drills, establish a training program, and recruit additional people for the team. They will also establish locations for storage of supplies and equipment and a plan for transportation from storage area to point of need.

Twin Cities VOAD meets at 6:30 p.m. on the last Tuesday (sometimes fourth Tuesday, sometimes fifth) of each month in South Fulton at the Harvey Vick Community Room on the back side of the City Hall/Public Works building on Broadway. Current team members with assigned responsibilities are Dr. William Smith, Chief Medical Officer; Karl Ivey, Training and Communication; and Jesse Johnson, Chaplain (Pastor of Antioch Baptist Church). The public is welcome to attend meetings and take advantage of their informative speakers. Visitors can learn where to get training and how to set up a similar group in other communities.

Several Twin Cities members have taken Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) on how to work with government disaster efforts. Emergency management director Hugh Caldwell organizes the FEMA-approved training sessions which comply with National Incident Management System guidelines. A session is planned for this fall, but dates have not been set. It’s an eight-week program, one night a week.

Although this group is primarily for Fulton-South Fulton residents, they encourage visitors in order to raise awareness for the need for preparedness. There are no training or residential requirements for meeting attendees. At the August meeting, Reelfoot Radio Club will present a program on ham radio operation. In June, three speakers summarized programs they had given before. One spoke about drying or canning food and provided handouts. Another shared information on preparing for a financial crisis. Dr. Smith gave pointers on how to treat burns with supplies commonly found in households.

One really good reason for communities to have volunteer disaster response groups is money. Federal disaster assistance pays for 75 percent of assessed damage. State and local governments must make up the rest. The state’s portion is about 12 percent, leaving locals with the balance. Volunteer workers can log their work time to be credited as in-kind service at ten dollars per person per hour. With enough people working, volunteers can save local taxpayers a significant amount of money.

Seven people from the Twin Cities group helped at Mayfield in the tornado aftermath. Working out of the supplies distribution center at the fairgrounds, volunteers delivered water to workers at the recovery center. One of the group was a nurse who helped with medical needs.

Whether you notice those little earthquakes or not, they happen every day. Will the big one come next week? Next year? Why not resolve to be prepared for any disaster? The Twin Cities team will be delighted to share their knowledge with you at their next meeting.

Contact Duane Rauch at (270)767-7699 if you have questions about meetings or programs.