img_2133Over the weekend of June 24-26, the Eastern New York and Western & Central New York Regions of the American Red Cross held a joint Disaster Institute at the NYS Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany, NY.

This three-day workshop offered a variety of Red Cross courses ranging from government operations, to logistics, to shelter operations and even Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) driver training. With each course, the Disaster Institute helped to prepare current Red Cross volunteers and employees to respond more effectively and efficiently when disaster strikes.

For example, a day-long Government Operations Fundamentals course walked prospective Red Cross government liaisons through real-life scenarios they might have to tackle during a disaster response. Meanwhile, Disaster Services Technology (DST) courses offered participants a chance to gain hands-on experience working with Red Cross technologies in order to properly allocate networking resources during disasters.

img_2146Throughout the weekend, courses built of off each other, ultimately allowing participants to apply and advance their knowledge from basic courses to more advanced training. Overall, the institute covered a wide range of responsibilities that must be fulfilled throughout the disaster cycle, and compressed them into a series of courses designed to increase Red Cross workers’ leadership, poise, and readiness to respond.

David Kunzelman, regional disaster officer for the Eastern New York Region, described the Disaster Institute as a great success, saying, “It was an outstanding opportunity for both Upstate New York Regions to come together to learn and refresh their information on how best to serve our communities.” Kunzelman also explained how exciting it was for Red Cross staff and volunteers from all across New York to be able to network during a calm period.

Ann Byrne, an AmeriCorps member with the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York, thoroughly enjoyed the Disaster Institute because it gave her a chance to meet other Red Crossers from near and far in a unique environment.

“I would definitely recommend another Disaster Institute because it was a great way to facilitate leadership,” said Byrne. “It not only made me more prepared for future disasters, but it also helped me with how I complete my everyday job — especially when I am training large groups of people myself.”

plmg8169Between both Upstate New York regions, a total of 175 Red Cross volunteers and employees were trained during the 2016 Disaster Institute. This helped to build important connections across the state, and ultimately make New York stronger and better prepared to deal with any disaster. Based on the success of the inaugural Upstate NY institute, Red Cross leaders are already making plans to offer more training opportunities, including another Disaster Institute in 2017.

If you are a current Red Cross volunteer interested in expanding your disaster training, click here to view a calendar of upcoming courses. New volunteers are always needed, so we welcome you to join the ranks of our disaster workforce! Get started in a few simple steps at