Local people have been helping one another in Payson for years and a goal of the Red Cross is to support and partner with the community resources responsible for that help.
"We wanted to bring the Red Cross in, in a good way," said Lynda Papaioanu, local resident and coordinator of the Red Cross' Rim Country Delivery Unit.
Nearly three years after the devastating Rodeo-Chediski Fire the Rim Country Delivery Unit (RCDU) of the American Red Cross has organized.
RCDU is made up of entirely local volunteers trained in various disaster functions. This unit, trained by the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Red Cross, is moving into the preparedness education stage.
Programs of interest to families will be offered on the topics of: evacuation preparedness; water safety; CPR; and first aid.
Initially locals were running the shelter during the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, then the federal government called on the Red Cross to step in. The organization's manner of taking over caused some hurt feelings.
"We can't totally let go, but we have been able to move past that," Papaioanu said.
When Papaioanu and the others interested in organizing an area unit spoke to neighbors about their plans, people were leery of getting involved at first. The organizers persevered and many of the local volunteers at the shelters for fire and flood victims have taken Red Cross classes, such as New Volunteer Orientation training and Together We Prepare.
Training has not been restricted to newcomers to Red Cross. Some of the old hands have participated in updates.
"They are aware of what went wrong," Papaioanu said. "The biggest difference is that the psychology is different in a metro and a rural area."
If Payson suffers from another wildfire our own Disaster Action Team (DAT) has the ability to be ready to serve in 45 minutes. If a fire were to exceed local resources, the RCDU would be in place to orient the volunteers coming in from the national organization.
DAT also steps in if a single family home burns. It would also coordinate with the humane society to provide space for pets.
According to www.redcross.org, the organization -- with 97 percent of the members classified as volunteers -- is there for the victims of hurricanes, earthquakes, and other disasters, including 150 families forced from their homes by fire every day.
More than 15 million Americans turn to the Red Cross to learn first aid, CPR, swimming, and other health and safety skills. Last year, more than 230,000 people volunteered to teach those courses.
The Grand Canyon Chapter of the Red Cross covers most of the state of Arizona.
It is this chapter that brought in all the training and supplies for the RCDU. Currently the unit has a solid core of about a dozen volunteers, with another 18 or so also involved. Training is an ongoing process, and the extent to which a volunteer wants to be involved is up to the individual.
A Red Cross member can choose to continue training to become part of a Disaster Service Human Resources Team. Such a volunteer is one who is ready to leave at a moment's notice to assist in another part of the country or the world.
The next training in Payson will be for CPR. The classes will be held in early summer. For more information call (928) 472-7245 for the local training schedule.
Additional information is available at www.arizonaredross.org.