A Public Health Emergency Preparedness grant from the Minnesota Department of Health provided training for 35 Mille Lacs Band employees to respond to an emergency that would force Band members to seek shelter in community centers.
All four community centers are equipped as emergency shelters thanks to another grant that funded installation of backup generators.
The Band has seen weather emergencies in recent years, including a windstorm in District III and flooding in District II. Tornados, snowstorms and other unpredictable disasters make it essential for Minnesota communities to prepare, which is why most counties and tribes in the state have applied for and received Emergency Preparedness grants.
Six Red Cross volunteers came from around the region May 23 to conduct the sheltering workshop. Participants learned about intake procedures, registration, security and safety, as well as how to set up regular cots and cots for those with special needs.
The Band has an agreement with the Red Cross to support the Band’s sheltering efforts by bringing cots and other equipment, but the Band would operate the shelters with limited support.
Emergency Management Coordinator Monte Fronk and Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement Safety Program Manager Hannah Schiemann organized the training with support from Health and Human Services Administration.
Hannah said the “hands-on” aspect of the training helps the knowledge sink in. “It’s important that we’re not just talking about it, but actually physically doing it,” she said.
According to Monte, training HHS staff to operate shelters makes sense. “They know our communities, so it’s really great to give them more knowledge of what their roles would be in a sheltering environment.”
Ken Vertin, a Red Cross volunteer from Cross Lake, said the workshops really help in the event of an emergency. Not only do participants know what to expect, but they also get to know Red Cross volunteers who might be called in to help. Volunteer John Lapakko said, “It’s all about building connections.”
Both John and Ken had careers in the medical field and now volunteer with the Red Cross around the country.
The Red Cross has one employee for every 200 volunteers, John said. “It’s about the proper use of donor dollars, making sure the money goes to clients, not staff.”