Irene Long (standing at right), Disaster Services manager for Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange Counties, talks about her organization’s commitment to training Idyllwild volunteers. Photo by Barbara Reese

Dr. Dick Goldberg, medical director of Mountain Disaster Preparedness, has long sought to establish a support and training relationship with the American Red Cross — a relationship that acknowledges the Hill would likely be cut off for an extended period if a major earthquake strikes. Key to those plans would be training of locals to open and manage shelters, since Idyllwild would likely be inaccessible to off-Hill Red Cross personnel after a disaster.

On Wednesday, May 8, Goldberg said he was pleased with the fruit of those efforts. Hill disaster preparation volunteers attended a standing room only meeting with Irene Long, Red Cross Disaster Services manager for Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties and Chris Fielder, her chapter’s volunteer coordinator. Long enthusiastically promised to support Hill volunteers in becoming certified in Red Cross disaster response courses. She demonstrated her commitment with a pledge to provide requested instruction locally rather than requiring Hill volunteers to travel to Riverside.

“It’s extraordinary they [Long and Fielder] would be willing to do this given their resources are stretched so thin,” Goldberg said.

Both Long and Fielder said they were impressed with the turnout and anxious to begin training Idyllwild volunteers. After Fielder’s presentation about Red Cross history and how the organization functions today in disaster response and relief, Idyllwild volunteers began registering online with Fielder’s two laptops that he had brought for that purpose.

Of particular interest to Idyllwild disaster volunteers was a Red Cross training unit called Disaster Action Team. According to Long, Disaster Action Teams respond to single and multi-family disasters as well as larger incidents. As part of that response, teams access disaster scenes and determine what support is needed from the Red Cross to immediately assist those in need. Teams are authorized to provide food for a week, clothing, lodging assistance in a hotel or motel and support with general health, as well as mental health services as needed.

Of primary importance to the Hill is certification of Idyllwild School as a designated shelter, a process that has already begun. “Idyllwild School is designated as an emergency shelter,” Goldberg said. “The contract has yet to be formalized.”

Once formalized, certification would enable Goldberg and his nursing staff to establish an emergency surgical center at the school. “MDP will enter into an agreement with Red Cross where we will be providing treatment,” he said.

He also noted the likely shelter relationship with Red Cross would be either a partner or supported shelter. In a “partnered” shelter, administrative control is by the Red Cross with all shelter operational expenses borne by the Red Cross. In a “supported” relationship, administrative control is local, by an organization such as MDP, and Red Cross assists with shelter operation expenses.

Post-disaster medical treatment in Idyllwild would be similar to what Goldberg did when he went to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and established a medical facility to treat evacuees. “There were 1,000 displaced people in the shelter,” Goldberg remembered. “The Red Cross provided 3,000 meals a day as well as clothing, shelter and safety. I was so incredibly impressed with what a resource the Red Cross is.”

Given Idyllwild’s isolation, it could be up to two weeks or more before outside help could arrive, Goldberg stressed. Long opined that it could be up to six weeks. Long and Fielding stressed the importance of having a large supply of water. “Store five cases of water per person,” Fielder said.

Fielder also discussed a Red Cross program called Map Your Neighborhood. “Make a list of 20 people in your neighborhood who you can get to within an hour. Call a meeting in your home to prepare a neighborhood disaster plan. See for additional information.

Of the turnout for the meeting, Goldberg, a retired emergency room physician said, “It seems clear there is a critical mass in the community that are interested in taking responsibility for disaster preparedness.” Sixteen Idyllwild and Pine Cove locals registered on the Red Cross volunteer site at the meeting, according to Fielder. “I can’t tell you how impressed we are with the community and its desire to be prepared,” he said.

At present, there are only two locals certified by Red Cross to open and staff a shelter. Many more are needed Goldberg urged. See for information on how to register as a Red Cross volunteer or contact Chris Fielder at [email protected] or call (888) 831-0031, ext. 2013.