Blizzard Recovery – CCDART

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Blizzard Recovery - CCDART

EASTHAM — 021013 — Warren Wentworth of Brewster visits with his Yorkie, Pugs, with Disaster Animal Response Team volunteer Cindy Nicholson at the Nauset Regional High School Red Cross shelter on Sunday. “They keep you fed, it’s warm in here and the people are nice,” Wentworth said of the shelter. Cape Cod Times/Christine Hochkeppel
Photo By: Cape Cod Times/Christine Hochkep


CCDART Responds

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CCDART Responds

Per Bentsen of Cape Cod Disaster Animal Response Team, left, and Collin Fox of AmeriCorps Cape Cod unwrap cots for the shelter at Nauset Regional High School in Eastham on Feb. 8, the weekend before the blizzard.

Cape shelter helpers in short supply
February 23, 2013 2:00 AM

BARNSTABLE — When a ferocious blizzard blitzed Cape Cod two weeks ago, a small army of volunteers sprung into action.

It turns out it may have been too small.

A half-dozen organizations sent volunteers to man radios, unpack shelter materials and serve food at the three shelters opened by the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee. When the wind and snow knocked out power to the shelter at Sandwich High School and a generator failed, a fourth shelter in Falmouth was opened.

For some volunteers, one shift crept into the next and the next, exposing a potential shortfall in the amount of unpaid help available on the Cape in an emergency.

“They were heroes but they needed relief,” said Sean O’Brien, coordinator of the regional emergency planning committee.

Although they are still collecting numbers on how many people pitched in during the blizzard, O’Brien and Dennis Police Chief Michael Whalen, who oversees the regional shelter system for the committee, estimate that double the number of volunteers who showed up were needed.

“We’ve got to widen the pool of volunteers,” Whalen said.

Whalen and O’Brien praised the volunteers who responded to help during the storm, including those from AmeriCorps Cape Cod, the county’s medical reserve corps, the sheriff’s community emergency response team, the Cape Cod Amateur Radio Emergency Services, the Cape Cod Disaster Animal Response Team and the American Red Cross.

In addition, the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority provided crucial transportation to and from the shelters, O’Brien said.

At Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School, volunteers took care of more than 500 people during the blizzard and its aftermath, including 325 at one time, Whalen said.

Volunteers worked well beyond their shifts and, in at least one case, a volunteer was on duty for 72 hours, he said.

The Red Cross, which typically provides the bulk of helpers for emergency shelter programs, has a list of 600 volunteers in the state to call on, said Kat Powers, spokeswoman for the organization’s Eastern Massachusetts region.

For the blizzard, the Red Cross had 230 volunteers, who assisted in 14 shelters opened in Massachusetts, including the four on the Cape, Powers said.

Volunteers were pre-positioned for the storm and some were unable to leave after their first shift ended because of continued severe weather and a driving ban put in place by the state, she said.

“We were well-staffed for every one of our 14 shelters throughout the region without complaint,” Powers said.

In some cases, however, volunteers had to be shifted from one shelter to another shelter as populations varied and the CEO of the Red Cross for Eastern Massachusetts helped out at the Falmouth High School shelter, Powers said.

The Red Cross never requires volunteers to work more than one 12-hour shift at a time, although some volunteers may do so by choice, she said.

Local officials are planning on taking another look at how much staffing they can count on for future shelter operations, Whalen said. “We’ve got to talk about that and determine how much more the Red Cross can actually do.”

The regional emergency planning committee may ask Rotary Clubs and other nonprofit service groups to help out, Whalen said, adding that Holly Rogers, director of the Disaster Animal Response Team, already has launched a volunteer drive.

The committee will discuss the response to the storm, including volunteer requirements at the shelters, at its next meeting March 6, O’Brien said.

Regardless of whether there were enough volunteers in place for the blizzard, everyone who spoke with the Times for this story said there’s always room for more.

“We were happy with our response to this blizzard, but we always need more people to help us,” Powers said.

Volunteer opportunities

For more information on where and how to volunteer for future emergencies visit the following websites:

CCDART Responds to Snow Storm

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CCDART Responds to Snow Storm

Sandwich 2/08/13 Members of the Cape Cod Animal Disaster Animal Response Team Debra Miller of Sandwich (closest) with her dog, Austin, and Cari Cabral of Falmouth with Brie watch over their pets at the shelter at Sandwich high school Friday evening.
Cape Cod Times/Ron Schloerb
Photo By: Cape Cod Times/Ron Schloerb