15 Sep 2014
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Shelter Exercise Helps Bethel Plan Ahead

This weekend, the Office of Emergency Management worked with the Red Cross to create a sheltering drill to prepare for a future disaster.

Shelter Exercise Helps Bethel Plan Ahead Shelter Exercise Helps Bethel Plan Ahead Shelter Exercise Helps Bethel Plan Ahead Shelter Exercise Helps Bethel Plan Ahead Shelter Exercise Helps Bethel Plan Ahead Shelter Exercise Helps Bethel Plan Ahead

Over the weekend, Bethel's Office of Emergency Management (OEM) worked with the Red Cross to plan for the worse. 

"We live in a good area, where no major disasters really happen, but you can never be too prepared," OEM Director Tom Galliford said. 

From Friday night into Saturday morning, more than 20 emergency response volunteers and 44 mock displaced persons practiced a sheltering drill at the Clifford J. Hurgin Municipal Center. 

Gallford explained that the municipal center would act as refuge if more than 20 Bethel residents were displaced by fire, flooding or severe storm. With smaller groups of people the town's fire houses can also act as shelters. 

Originally, several towns in Connecticut were also working with the state's Red Cross chapter to do similar drill, but many were canceled to send help to the those affected by the tornado in Springfield, Mass.

If any such disaster were to happen in Bethel, Galliford said the municipal center can hold up to 50-60 residents in the gym area on the east side of the building. The Red Cross would also setup play areas for children, a kitchen in the basement and even an area for family pets. He also said this could all occur for several days without disrupting normal business that goes on at the municipal center.

"The Red Cross would run this for the most part," Galliford said. "We  support the building and supplies and they come with tons of volunteers and donations."

Displaced persons would check in to the Red Cross upon arrival and then would be separated in the dorm area in the gym by family or gender, to maintain a sense of comfort. They would also be supplied a cot, blankets and pillows, extra clothing and food. 

In an more isolated part of the municipal center, there were also volunteers from the Connecticut State Animal Response Team or SART.

"What we learned from Hurricane Katrina was that shelters didn't allow pets," SART Member Robert Yost said. "That's when we started a pet shelter, as pet people are passionate about their animals."

To protect human shelter-ees, animals are placed far away from the dorm section of the shelter. Yost said pets are checked in and registered just like their human counterparts. They are also given a health evaluation by a volunteer veterinarian. While SART provides crates, food and water, pet owners in a shelter would still be responsible for walking them outside. 

Overall, Galliford said participating in the shelter drill was a success. 

"In the four years of being (OEM) director, we've luckily never had to open a shelter like this," Galliford said. "I thought this was a great opportunity to see how it all works."

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