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Greater Wausau: Shelly Kaiser column: Be prepared for disaster

9:08 AM, Mar. 1, 2013  |  Comments
The tornado that struck Merrill in 2011 required a massive mobilization of volunteers. The time to plan and prepare for emergencies is now, before one strikes.
The tornado that struck Merrill in 2011 required a massive mobilization of volunteers. The time to plan and prepare for emergencies is now, before one strikes.
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When a friend or neighbor is in crisis, many of you are the first to offer a helping hand. Maybe you watch their children, help rebuild a shed or bake a casserole.

But what happens when a community faces a crisis? Suppose multiple neighborhoods or hundreds of acres of land are affected by a tornado? Many of you again will want to spring into action to offer assistance.

But when a disaster strikes, a countywide plan for response gets activated. Key individuals and groups who have been pre-identified and have prepared for an emergency event can offer victims the best assistance.

Can you imagine the additional chaos that would result if hundreds of well-intentioned citizens just showed up at the scene with tools in hand or boxes of relief items to donate? The emergency response personnel, fire and police officers who should be attending to the health and safety needs of victims would be forced instead to deal with masses of volunteers who need direction.

That's not to say that volunteers and donations won't be needed after a disaster. But the time to prepare to respond is now - before disaster strikes. Given the opportunity for a little advanced training and planning, you can elevate your value to the organizations that will be called on to offer assistance after a disaster.

Before spring tornado season hits, you have an opportunity to come learn about a variety of disaster response opportunities. Hear from the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the Humane Society and United Way. Each will share how they use volunteers after a disaster, what training is required and the next steps to take to get on board of whichever organization most interests you.

Training and commitment levels vary. Personal disaster preparedness materials also will be available for your own family's planning.

Please mark your calendars and plan to attend the Disaster Volunteering Overview session from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. March 20 or from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. March 21. The sessions are identical and will be held at United Way, 137 River Drive in Wausau. Please call 715-848-2927 to register - and bring a friend!

We all want to be ready to offer help in an emergency. A little pre-planning now will make that a reality and help create a more resilient Marathon County.

Interested but can't attend either date? Call 715-848-2927 to request that informational materials be sent to you.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports