GREENFIELD — A group dedicated to emergency preparedness is seeking volunteers to participate in a mock disaster exercise that will serve as a training session for its members.
The Hancock County COAD, or Community Organizations Active in Disasters, brings together community stakeholders, including the American Red Cross, United Way and Salvation Army, for preparedness discussions aimed at streamlining the aid and assistance that would flow into the community during a crisis.
Its leaders regularly hold meetings to establish plans and guidelines; now, they need dozens of volunteers to help them practice and perfect these written tactics, said Jim Peters, director of COAD.
Members are asking residents to join in an upcoming live exercise at 5 p.m. Nov. 1 at Brandywine Community Church that will allow volunteers to run through their organizational techniques in a hypothetical emergency, Peters said.
Residents who participate will be assigned a role to embody during the exercise — such as a member of a church group or a business owner leading a team of volunteers — and active COAD members will practice checking volunteers in and assigning them to different duties.
Volunteers won’t be asked to register beforehand — creating a scenario not unlike a real disaster, when local first-responders might not necessarily know who will show up to help and when.
While Hancock County Emergency Management directors are coordinating with state, local and federal governments and police and fire departments are handling rescues, COAD members are tasked with assisting all other groups that pour in to help.
Peters said the COAD expects Good Samaritans to come in from across the region should a tornado or other natural disaster grip the county. But those groups are only helpful to their cause if their efforts are guided by local experts who know where help is needed most, he said.
The COAD is charged with keeping these folks organized, checking them in at one designated place and dispatching them across the county, Peters said.
Setting up practice scenarios helps COAD members better understand what is expected of them, said Greg Hicks, a COAD volunteer. Practicing their efforts prior to a disaster will make them effective in response and recovery when a disaster strikes, and every minute counts.
Small hiccups — discovering it takes volunteers longer to fill out necessary paperwork to join assistance efforts than expected, for example — can bog down the process; it’s important for the COAD to know about those issues ahead of an emergency, Hicks said.
As volunteers participating in the live exercise enter Brandywine Community Church, COAD members will greet them, listen to their assigned stories and assign them to complete tasks that fit their skill sets, Peters said. Church members, for example, would likely be sent to prepare meals for county residents whose homes were destroyed; while a group of construction workers might be sent to affected neighborhoods to take down nearly demolished homes, he said.
While the term “mock disaster” conjures images of staged accidents with actors posing as victims, the COAD’s event is much more practical, allowing members to exercise strategies they’ve been working on for months, organizers said.
“We need to make sure what we think will work will actually work,” Hicks said.
Volunteers are asked to come to Brandywine Community Church, 1551 E. New Road, Greenfield, at 5 p.m. Nov. 1. For more information, visit hancockcoad.org.
The Hancock County COAD, or Community Organizations Active in Disasters, is looking for volunteers to participate in a mock disaster scenario. Volunteers are asked to come to Brandywine Community Church, 1551 E. New Road, Greenfield, at 5 p.m. Nov. 1. For more information, visit www.hancockcoad.org.