It has fortunately been a while since LaGrange County has experienced any significant natural disasters. A quick look at Southern Indiana shows just how fast and severe it can be when disaster strikes an area.
That doesn’t mean that the county isn’t prepared to assist those who find themselves in need of help.
One of the newest additions that will be available to help in the county is a Red Cross trailer that can be taken quickly to an area to set up an emergency shelter. The new trailer will be open for the public to look at from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 31, at the LaGrange County Public Library, along with a mock shelter set up in the library’s community room.
A ribbon cutting for the new trailer will be at 10:30 a.m. The trailer will be parked in the library’s garage area on the south end of the building.
The American Red Cross has a handful of sites around the county that can be used for emergency shelters. The trailer, noted Jo Schrader, operations coordinator for American Red Cross of LaGrange County, can be hooked up and taken anywhere to immediately set up a shelter.
The trailer was made possible through a grant from the LaGrange County Community Foundation, which provided a $7,500 grant.
Inside the trailer are cots, significant first aid supplies, kits to serve food, and more to allow the Red Cross to set up a shelter for up to 50 people. “It’s truly something I hope we never have to use,” Schrader stated. “But we have it to be prepared. Along with our volunteers, I’m confident we could open a shelter and provide for people’s needs quickly in an emergency.”
Schrader added that the recent train derailment near Ligonier could have resulted in the evacuation of people from the Topeka area, which put the local Red Cross on notice for possible shelter.
The Red Cross has agreements with various sites around the county, including the LaGrange County Library, Westview School Corporation, and larger area churches such as Shore Mennonite and First Church of God in LaGrange, and The Howe School. Schrader said the sites have large areas that can serve as shelters, and have also agreed to provide personnel to assist at the site.
At Saturday’s event, the public can get a taste of what a shelter would be like, as the Red Cross will have cots and other stations set up.
In case of a real emergency that requires a shelter, the Red Cross would contact the site nearest to the area affected. The trailer would be taken to that location and the shelter quickly set up. Residents would be directed there by emergency personnel responding to the event, such as police officers, fire fighters, EMTs and others assisting.
“In the event of a disaster, our defined responsibility is to provide immediate shelter,” Schrader said. “We also serve as a respite area for emergency personnel.”
And while natural disasters such as tornadoes are the most visible disasters that the Red Cross responds to, shelters can also be set up as cooling centers during extreme heat waves or as warming centers during winter storms. And while LaGrange County has very little rail traffic, it does have the toll road, which sees its share of hazardous material being transported.
Those who do go to a shelter will find “a safe, comfortable environment,” Schrader noted. It is there to serve people’s immediate, basic needs, she added. However, she noted, “It’s an environment where many people are together.” Some things, such as showers, may not be available.
But the shelters are meant for short-term assistance. For long term needs, the Red Cross helps by providing means for families to get items such as clothes and other needs to hold them over until they can be helped by their insurance companies.
“We are ready when called upon,” Schrader said.
She hopes everyone takes the opportunity visit the library Saturday to see just how ready they are.