Red Cross preparing shelters, scrambling for volunteers

Red Cross preparing shelters, scrambling for volunteers

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The Red Cross is mobilizing volunteers and supplies, finalizing plans and getting teams together to be ready to help you when Hurricane Matthew hits.  The local chapter of the American Red Cross has been in preparation mode throughout the week.

As of Tuesday, Nanci Conley, the American Red Cross executive director of the eastern region of South Carolina, said there were 25 volunteers to help out at shelters.  She said the Red Cross expects all 16 shelters in Horry County to open.

"People hide from the wind and run from the water because the storm surge, if even close to true, could be significant on our coast," Red Cross volunteer and media communication representative Judy DelSignore said.

The 25 volunteers had a final information meeting Tuesday and received their shelter kits.  All shelters in Horry County are schools, according to Conley.  The shelter kits include over-the-counter medicines, signage to alert visitors to the shelter and forms.

Only the bare necessities are inside the volunteer's kits.  Officials remind you to bring your own personal must-haves, if a shelter is the only option for you.

Red Cross officials say it's up to you to bring your personal medication, identification, pillows, blankets, important documents, favorite snacks and toys for your kids.  When you get to a shelter, you'll register at arrival and then you're on your own. DelSignore said to remember shelters are made for safety, not comfort.

"So, inland farther we have supplies that are ready, if we need to have them mobilized and brought in here…that will happen. The adjoining states may also be impacted by this storm, so we're going to have to be self-sufficient for about 72 hours," DelSignore said.

Emergency management teams in the county will make the call.  Horry County shelters are only prepared to handle a little more than 13,000 people according to Horry County's website.  Shelters are only supposed to be used if you don't have another option.  Only service animals are allowed in Red Cross shelters.

To support the shelters, the Red Cross is looking desperately for more volunteers.  There will be two last minute training sessions at the Myrtle Beach Red Cross chapter in the Market Common.  One class will be in the morning, the other in the afternoon.  Anyone is welcome, but you will be subject to an expedited background check to qualify to volunteer.

"We truly are in desperate need of volunteers right now," Conley commented.  The 25 current volunteers is not enough for to support the need.  Conley said each shelter needs at least eight volunteers.  There are two, 12 hour shifts for each shelter, split between the eight workers.  Conley said those numbers can vary depending on the size of the shelter.  Some shelters hold 30 people, while others may hold as many as 200.

Conley said the Department of Social Services partners with the Red Cross, sending some volunteers to help.

Conley said it's a balance between getting enough people and bringing in enough supplies since the Red Cross is an organization that helps with every disaster, only running on donor dollars.

If you want to volunteer call the Red Cross at 843-477-0020.

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