Emergency Shelter Training Prepares the Northland for Disaster

Officials from nine counties, tribal health departments, and organizations came together for the drill

VIRGINIA, Minn. – If a disaster were to strike the Northland, officials have to be prepared to open emergency shelters. So on Tuesday, local organizations partnered with St. Louis County for a disaster training drill in Virginia.

Officials at the training session say they hope to never use the skills they learned there but, if a real disaster happens, they feel ready.

A wildfire forces evacuations north of Virginia, at least, that’ was the simulated disaster at the Miner’s Memorial Building.

“As we’ve seen throughout the country, there’s disasters, whether it be man-made or natural disasters happen on a regular basis,” said Scott Lesnau, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the St. Louis County Health Department.

The live action shelter drill brought together officials from nine counties, tribal health departments, and organizations like the American Red Cross.

“It’s much better to get to know them now than on the day of the actual wildfire, disaster,” said Tony Guerra, Disaster Program Manager from the American Red Cross.

Dormitory living quarters, a food service area, and health center were set up just like they would be in a real evacuation.

“Whether it was a fire, flood, tornado, the shelter’s going to respond and be set up the same way with the same people,” said Lesnau.

Attendees say it’s important to have annual training sessions to use their skills before they lose them.

“It’s better to practice them and make mistakes now than to make mistakes when it actually happens,” said Guerra.

After the drill, an action report detailed what needs to be focused on during next year’s training.

“We were ready to go for Husky and that was with maybe an hour’s notice,” said Lesnau. “Every year we get better at what we’re doing and get more prepared. People become more familiar with their roles.”

The organizations involved are always in need of more volunteers to help with disaster responses. St. Louis County is now looking for volunteers to work in their pet disaster relief trailer.

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