Our region is gearing up for two, one of a kind overnight emergency shelter exercises, taking place both on the Southside and the Peninsula. Hampton Roads residents with real disabilities and access and functional needs, along with their caregivers and family members, are volunteering to camp out at a local shelter overnight, learn the basics of personal preparedness and provide feedback to shelter staff on their experiences.
The HRPDC’s All Hazards Advisory Committee, along with its Inclusive Emergency Planning Subcommittee approved both of these distinctive exercises and received funding from the Eastern Virginia Healthcare Coalition as well as the State Homeland Security Grant via the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Local and regional shelter staff, along with other volunteer organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Southern Baptist and the Salvation Army will be providing staff and home-cooked meals and snacks. Cheryl Simpson (The Endependence Center) and Jenny Redick (HRPDC) will provide a short preparedness workshop for participants, and each one will be given an emergency preparedness kit and helpful information on how best to prepare. There will even be a movie (with snacks) before lights out!
Team work is the key ingredient to accomplishing these innovative exercises and multiple organizations, including government agencies and disability advocacy organizations cities/localities are working together to plan, share best practices, staff the shelter, observe and officially evaluate for important lessons learned to take back to their communities and improve inclusive sheltering for the entire region.
The first overnight exercise will take place at Norview High School in Norfolk on April 6-7. Norfolk Emergency Management, Fire & Rescue, Human Services, Community Services Board, Public Health are busy with preparations to host the exercise. Potential registrants from across the Southside region (You do not have to be a Norfolk resident.) can sign up here - http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=f87jftcab&oeidk=a07eepck5kp1ce4f303. Each registrant will be contacted to confirm their information and address any questions or concerns they may have. A concerted effort is being made to make sure a variety of disabilities and access/functional needs are represented by our community of volunteers and caregivers/family members.
Prior to this first exercise, an all-day Disability Inclusive Emergency Management workshop will be hosted by the HRPDC on April 2 for all shelter-related staff, emergency management and first responders on the Southside. Marcie Roth, former FEMA Director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, and now Chief Executive Officer of Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies will be providing the training for the workshop. Cheryl Simpson, Endependence Center, will be partnering with her to bring her local perspective and expertise.
A similar workshop and overnight emergency shelter exercise will take place on the Peninsula early this coming summer.