Dover joins Red Cross local emergency shelter initiative

DOVER — Inspired by the lessons of Tropical Storm Irene's widespread devastation, it was two years ago last week that the Red Cross of Vermont and the New Hampshire Upper Valley kicked off its Local Disaster Shelter Initiative in Waterbury.

The event was marked by the support of then-Irene Recovery Officer Sue Minter and Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, who joined local officials and Waterbury residents.

After volunteers completed a training session in Dover Sept. 4, the town became the 50th community in Vermont to participate in the program. Nearly 800 volunteers statewide have trained to strengthen local disaster preparedness through the Red Cross initiative.

According to Red Cross regional executive Larry Crist, the initiative weds the resources and expertise of the American Red Cross to the strong commitment to each other's safety and security neighbors demonstrate in rural communities regionally.

“The bottom line is better-prepared and more resilient communities in the face of disaster,” Crist said.

More than 200 towns across Vermont were affected by Tropical Storm Irene. Thirteen of them were cut off for several days with little to no warning.

After Irene, the Red Cross realized it needed to bring some fresh thinking to community preparedness. Through the Local Disaster Shelter Initiative, the Vermont and the New Hampshire Upper Valley American Red Cross rethought how it works with small towns to combat the challenges created by storm conditions, road conditions, and the availability of trained Red Cross volunteers.

This initiative empowers communities to open local Red Cross shelters quickly and independently. With equipment and training provided by the American Red Cross - estimated at $3,500 per town - communities recruit local volunteers.

The Red Cross urges communities yet to join the ranks of the Local Disaster Shelter Initiative to reach out to the organization today. Funds and staff are available, Crist said in a press release.

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