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New Red Cross Training Course Aims to Better Serve People with Disabilities Following a Disaster

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Friday, September 29, 2006 — The American Red Cross is rolling out the latest in its series of courses to better prepare employees and volunteers to serve victims of disasters, regardless of individual characteristics.

“Serving People with Disabilities Following Disaster” focuses on Red Cross policies and best practices for meeting the needs of people with disabilities, based on the organization’s commitment to relieve the suffering of all people, guided solely by their needs.

In developing the course, the Red Cross partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and organizations such as the National Organization on Disability (NOD) and the National Spinal Cord Injury Association. The course expands upon a Red Cross prerequisite, “Fulfilling Our Mission: Translating Your Compassion into Community Action.”

“Serving People with Disabilities Following Disaster” begins with a 45-minute online self-study designed for any Red Cross employee or volunteer who serves the public in times of disaster. A second component – an eight-hour instructor-led class – provides more in-depth information for disaster workers who are in direct and constant contact with people with disabilities.

Dawn Matterness, director of disaster services for the Red Cross chapter in Alexandria, Va., was pleased with the reception the course got the first time she taught it. Her class was full, with a waiting list of students eager to fill any cancellations.

“It was very exciting as an instructor to see that level of enthusiasm for new training,” Matterness said. “It was equally nice as an instructor to focus on new material so timely and critical to our mission.”

Matterness covered a broad spectrum of information ranging from Red Cross policies and regulations to how to adapt Red Cross services to the specific needs of people with disabilities. Attendees also learned how to assess those needs more effectively.

“All you have to do is ask! Each individual will have different needs,” said one participant from the National Capital Area Chapter. “Ask each individual what their needs are; don’t tell them what you think they need.”

The course, which encourages participation and discussion, concludes with a two-hour tabletop exercise during which trainees interact with one another and practice new skills.

At the end of a full day, Matterness’ students were eager to share what they had learned with fellow disaster responders in their own chapters.

“This course is an example of the type of training that is necessary to ensure the actions of our paid and volunteer staff remain consistent with the Red Cross’ core values,” said Traci Winfree, chief preparedness and response officer for the Loudoun County, Va., chapter.

To learn more about this and other Red Cross courses that will help you prepare for, prevent and respond to disaster, contact your local Red Cross chapter.
The American Red Cross has helped people mobilize to help their neighbors for 125 years. Last year, victims of a record 72,883 disasters, most of them fires, turned to the nearly 1 million volunteers and 35,000 employees of the Red Cross for help and hope. Through more than 800 locally supported chapters, more than 15 million people each year gain the skills they need to prepare for and respond to emergencies in their homes, communities and world. Almost 4 million people give blood—the gift of life—through the Red Cross, making it the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The Red Cross helps thousands of U.S. service members separated from their families by military duty stay connected. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, a global network of more than 180 national societies, the Red Cross helps restore hope and dignity to the world’s most vulnerable people. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.

Written by Katie Lawson , Staff Writer,

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