A tornado (or a blizzard, if you wish) has hit Lawrence hard.
Several homes are damaged, and residents and animals are in distress and in need of aid.
Amid the chaos, someone needs to remain calm and to organize the volunteers.
That’s where the Roger Hill Volunteer Center and Douglas County Emergency Management come in.
“It’s really important to have unaffiliated volunteers because they can fill the need when the need gets bigger,” said Anna Foerster, an AmeriCorps VISTA, who specializes in disaster preparedness.
The agencies led volunteers through an exercise Friday at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds. Up to 50 volunteers learned the process of how they would get assigned to help a specific agency during a disaster.
For example, after volunteers complete a form about what skills they have. Organizers then assign each volunteer to help in a specific place, like helping evacuate animals from the Lawrence Humane Society.
During the exercise, emergency management officials and others gave volunteers slips of paper with their assignments. They operated under the assumption phones and possibly most computers could be wiped out.
Emergency officials also scanned driver’s licenses of volunteers to help track them in the process.
Marvin Wiedeman Jr., a longtime Douglas County volunteer and storm spotter, said the exercise would come in handy when a real disaster comes.
“If more people get trained and do this if a disaster comes, there will be more volunteers to help out and less hassles,” Wiedeman said.
More information about being a community volunteer is available at www.rhvc.org.