On Saturday June 2, 2012 I participated in a shelter drill in Chester County at the Avon Grove High School. In addition to representatives from various partner agencies, I was surrounded by friends in red vests. They were American Red Cross volunteers from the surrounding counties, all there to participate in a complex drill involving opening a shelter for theoretical tornado victims in Chester county. They gave up a Saturday to start early in the day, preparing the high school, loading in supplies, establishing assignments and chains of command, and in theory, preparing for the worst. They might have been preparing to welcome friends and neighbors, but most likely they were there to help people they had never even met. Things got into gear once the pretend clients started arriving, lining up to be registered, triaged, assisted, and in many cases hugged and welcomed.
That’s the way it’s done. People you have never met and don’t know become your temporary responsibility while they sort out their lives and take the next small steps towards recovery. The volunteers were there to learn, practice and keep their skills sharpened for the unwelcome day when reality will turn the drill into a disaster with an official American Red Cross DR number. Interestingly enough, Friday evening saw inclement weather blanket the area, there were tornado watches and warnings, and enough possible uncertainty to make some of us wonder if we might be called out a little earlier than the original 8:00AM start time. But thankfully, it remained a drill, and I personally had the opportunity to both learn and teach, meet some old friends and acquaintances, and make some new ones. Some of my best friends wear red vests. Some of yours do too.
Submission by: Joseph Luczkowski