Story and photos by Dave Schoeneck, Red Cross Volunteer
More than 160 Red Cross volunteers, staff and community partners came together during the North Star Disaster Training Institute (NSDTI) at Camp Ripley last week to learn fundamental and advanced skills to help prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.
Organized by the American Red Cross Minnesota Region, the third North Star Disaster Training Institute, included more than 30 classes on client assistance, psychological first aid, disaster assessment, volunteer supervision, sheltering and more.
Twin Cities disaster volunteer Jennifer Pluhar said, “The Institute was definitely time well spent. From a variety of training offerings, to networking opportunities and overall Red Cross team building – I’m leaving better equipped to serve my community and with even more admiration for the truly amazing people I’m privileged to serve with.”
To test skills learned at the Institute, the weekend culminated in a four-hour tabletop disaster exercise simulating an F2 tornado ripping through St. Cloud. More than 80 people participated in the exercise, including community partners from the city of St. Cloud and Stearns County: Erin Hausauer, Emergency Manager, Stearns County; Kristen Tschida, Stearns County Emergency Management Planner; Dean Wrobbel, St. Cloud Fire Chief; and Jerry Raymond, St. Cloud Fire Battalion Chief. They helped Red Cross volunteers understand how the government would coordinate its disaster response and work with the Red Cross and other agencies.
“We were very pleased to again be able to utilize all of the wonderful facilities at Camp Ripley, including the newly constructed classroom and cafeteria wing of the Education Center,” said Art McIntyre, Director of the NSDTI planning team and a Red Cross volunteer. “We also had excellent assistance from the staff at Camp Ripley, which made the Institute run very smoothly and efficiently.”
Joe Kelly, director of Minnesota’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency and a member of the American Red Cross Minnesota Region Board of Directors, delivered the Friday night keynote address. He told the volunteers, staff and Red Cross partners, “I was reminded of what you really do this summer when I visited the Brainerd Lakes disaster area. It made me proud of my association with this organization. If not the Red Cross, who would be there to help? I don’t have an answer for that. I couldn’t really do my job without you.”
Terry Sluss of Baxter, MN, lead Red Cross volunteer on this summer’s Vigilant Guard Exercise, was presented the Minnesota National Guard’s Commander’s Award for Public Service by Major Joe Sanganoo. Phil Hansen, Regional Chief Executive Officer, presented Vonnie Thompson with her 65-year service pin and plaque for her tireless work as a volunteer Red Cross nurse.
The NSDTI Planning team included Steve Bonnie, Judy Pike, Paul Baker, Cheryl Thompson, Mike Hofmann, Rick Graff, Rick Solheid, Eric Adams, Dan Hoffman, Megan Mrozek, Brenda Mead, Bill Satterness, and David Schoeneck.
The institute was made possible by a private donor and the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation, and several in-kind donations of materials and food. Planning is underway for the next training institute. Meanwhile, additional online training for Red Cross staff and volunteers is available through EMBARC.
For information about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, click here.