Emergency volunteers sought

Group would help during disasters

July 5, 2017 Cranberry Local News

A new Butler County nonprofit corporation is looking for volunteers to help during emergencies.

Pennsylvania Volunteers Inc. is part of the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. It will work with the American Red Cross, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, among others.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that do not have a pool of volunteers available for disasters, said Rich Wilson of Center Township, the state vice president of operations for Pennsylvania Volunteers.

“This is going to be the benchmark in Western Pennsylvania,” he said.

Wilson, a retired Zelienople police officer, said there are many areas in which volunteers can support emergency services during a disaster, including finding places where children, elderly, disabled and pets can go.

In addition to emergency response, volunteers also will be involved with neighborhood watches and educating people on home preparedness.

Wilson said volunteers can be various ages, beginning with teenagers.

“It’s something everyone can do,” he said.

Wilson decided to implement such a group after visiting places such as Haiti, New York City and Mississippi following disasters.

He said volunteers from other parts of the world would arrive to help out for a period of time, but eventually have to return home.

“What if that happened in your area,” Wilson said.

He intends to start in Butler County, then spread out in the region.

The group, which already has 40 members, is having its first event 6:30 p.m. July 10 at the Lyndora American Legion, off Kohler Avenue.

The Red Cross will provide training at the event, including touch-only CPR.

“Now, you don’t have to breathe in the mouth anymore,” he said.

The group invites all veterans, churches, civic groups and any residents willing to volunteer.

Nicholas Garbacz, the Red Cross regional disaster officer, said the session is meant to train volunteers in preparedness.

“The Red Cross is really trying to find opportunities to have a presence in local communities,” he said.

Garbacz said the Red Cross supports volunteer efforts such as Pennsylvania Volunteers.

Steve Bicehouse, director of Butler County Emergency Services, said the volunteers are needed.

“We’re going to do everything we can to support them,” Bicehouse said.

The group’s Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/pavolunteers.