Various emergency responders, department heads and community leaders took Red Cross training in disaster shelter operation.

Knowing how to set up a disaster shelter and make it work efficiently requires training. A Red Cross “Shelter Fundamentals Class” taught by Deb Tucker, Red Cross Disaster Program Manager, helped a variety of first responders and health care workers understand the intricacies and issues of setting up and operating a disaster shelter in Pratt on Thursday at the Community Center.

Tucker said there are no trained Red Cross workers in Pratt and she needs two volunteers. Anyone interested should contact www.redcross.org or debra.tucker@redcross.org to become a volunteer.

When setting up and running the many facets of a disaster shelter, the question each person associated with the shelter has to answer is the same.

“Is this shelter where I would want my own family to stay,” Tucker said.

If the answer is yes, then the shelter is being operated effectively and safely.

“Treat people the way you would want your family treated,” Tucker said.

For the people who are at the shelter, there are many needs and a key to a successful shelter is to get to “yes.” That means that no matter what a person needs, even if it is something that seems beyond what the shelter staff can provide, they will try to get to a “yes” answer for every need if possible. Tucker, who is very experienced with disaster shelter operation, said she has run into some needs that the shelter staff weren’t prepared to handle. But the goal at a shelter is to try to meet the need and get the person to “yes.”

“Don’t dismiss the need,” said Tucker, who reminded the class that everyone at the shelter has to be flexible because every situation is unique.

There are a host of elements to consider at a shelter including floor plan layout, food preparation and distribution, communication, information gathering, safety, placement of people to avoid conflicts and so much more.

One piece of advice she offered was to only set up cots as people come in. Cots are heavy and it takes time to put them up. It also takes time to clean them and tear them down when the shelter is closing so just set up cots when they are needed, Tucker said.

At the class were representatives from law enforcement, emergency services, Pratt Regional Medical Center, Pratt County Health Department, Barber County Health Department, Pratt Area Chamber of Commerce, Pratt County Environmental Services, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, Youth Core Ministries and the Abundant Harvest Church.