Training Shelter Operations


20161009_154158“A hotel without stars, but with a 24*7 hour service. That is a shelter. Today you will learn how to operate a shelter, as a Shelter Operation Manager.” Words of introduction by instructor Humphrey Gomes, on Sunday, October 9 during the training Shelter Operations. 

About twelve volunteers signed up for the training. Among them new volunteers, who are eager to learn all about organizing a shelter. But also some ‘veterans’ who already have some experience with shelter operations and who were willing to share their knowledge with the new group. A mixed group, but with one purpose: ‘if the moment comes to set up a shelter, we will be ready’.

Instructor Gomes had some advice for the volunteers who also participated in the training sessions ‘Safety’, ‘Mass Care’ and ‘Team Leaders’ (these trainings were given in August and September): “You can use and practice that knowledge during this training ‘Shelter Operations’, by putting some pieces of the puzzle together”. 

The theory was given via a PowerPoint Presentation. Gomes explained in which kind of situations (hurricane, earth quake, apartment fire and rising flood) a shelter can become a need. He showed a detailed organization structure, to teach his ‘students’ about shelter management, operations, planning, logistics and finance. The volunteers asked a lot of questions, like who is in charge of a shelter. “Mostly Social Services is in charge and they will decide if a shelter is necessary or not. The Red Cross will facilitate. So it is important that you, as volunteers, know how to handle it”, Gomes told them.  

After the theory, Gomes organized two simulations in the emergency building of the Red Cross. He divided the group in three teams (Alfa, Bravo, Delta). The first task was to perform a check-up to determine whether the (by Social Services) chosen location is suitable to become a shelter. For the new volunteers it was a great way, and for some of them the first time, to walk around in the emergency building. For the second task Gomes got help from two veteran volunteers, who were acting like a real Shelter Operation Manager and registration desk-helpers. The other volunteers became ‘the clients’, the people who are in need of a shelter and who wanted to register themselves. A role play, but full of fun, serious talks, a lot of questions and more explanations. 

After a long Sunday of training, from 9 till 5, the ‘Shelter’ was closed and the ‘Shelter Operation Managers to be’ went home. 

Written for the Red Cross Aruba by Mirte de Rozario