Wendy Braden gets familiar with the workings of the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle before taking it for a test drive on Friday. Photo by Laurelle Walsh

Wendy Braden gets familiar with the workings of the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle before taking it for a test drive on Friday. Photo by Laurelle Walsh

By Laurelle Walsh

Six Methow Valley residents have trained with the American Red Cross and are the area’s new Twisp-based Disaster Action Team.

Wendy Braden, Sheila Brandenburg, Kay MacCready, Heather Smith, and Renee and John Szenasi just finished Red Cross casework training and Emergency Response Vehicle training in order to support first responders and aid victims in the event of a house fire or local disaster.

“We are glad to have community member buy-in,” Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Amanda Appel said at last week’s Community Roundtable (April 11). “If there’s a team here, the response is quicker and faster; it’s better for everyone.”

“It makes [Appel’s] job easier to have people trained here,” said Glenda Beauregard, program specialist at the Okanogan County Department of Emergency Management.

Red Cross disaster assistance services for the Methow Valley and greater Okanogan County are administered out of the Wenatchee office. Twisp’s new volunteer Disaster Action Team members are on-call 24/7 and will be dispatched, when needed, by the Red Cross duty officer in Wenatchee.

When called, a minimum of two team members will respond to the scene of a fire or other disaster in the North Cascades Chapter’s Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). The ERV — a retired ambulance that just moved to the Methow Valley from Bridgeport — is equipped with Red Cross comfort kits, warming blankets, stuffed animals, water bottles, first aid supplies and home cleanup kits, to be distributed to disaster victims on site.

The ERV also serves as a warming shelter and mobile feeding station for firefighters and other emergency responders working on long calls.

This ERV is the only such vehicle to serve all of Okanogan County, which also has Disaster Action Teams in Omak and Tonasket.

Twisp’s six-member team will next receive Red Cross emergency shelter training, which will teach them how to set up a shelter for 30 to 60 people in the Methow Valley Community Center, the senior center, the Winthrop Barn, or the Cascade Bible Church, said Appel. A disaster shelter trailer containing cots, blankets and shelter kits — one of five in the county — is already stationed behind the community center to be used in the event of a disaster that involves evacuation.

The team is “good to go” to respond to a house fire, Appel said. “It’s a good core group, but we can always use more,” she said.

Inquiries about volunteering with the Red Cross have “really shot up” since the disastrous mudslide in Oso, Wash., Appel said. “Ninety-seven percent of the folks on a disaster relief operation [like the one in Oso] are volunteers,” she said.

People interested in becoming Red Cross volunteers can sign up at www.redcross.org/support/volunteer.