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Mass care exercise prepares Lane County agencies to respond in disaster events

 Red Cross volunteer stands with a woman playing the part of an evacuee.
Tiffany Eckert
Red Cross relief worker Simone Kaiser served Latiffe Amado as she acted the part of a disaster evacuee during the mass care exercise in Eugene all day Wednesday. Behind them is a 50-bed shelter.

Over a hundred volunteers participated in a “mass care exercise” at the Lane County Fairgrounds on Wednesday. It was a chance for agencies to test disaster relief procedures—including setting up emergency shelters for people and pets.

As Emergency Manager, Patience Winningham is always thinking about the county’s disaster preparedness. She said this drill allows responders to run through scenarios.

“Where am I going to stay tonight if I’m evacuated? Where can I get information to find my mom? Or find a wheelchair?” Winningham asked. “That’s our responsibility and that’s the goal here is to capitalize on things that we’ve learned from Holiday Farm fire and Cedar Creek and we’re making areas of improvement and preparing for this next wildfire season.”

 Lane County Emergency Manager Patience Winningham.
Tiffany Eckert
Lane County Emergency Manager Patience Winningham during the county's first mass care exercise at the fairgrounds in Eugene.

Winningham said the mass care exercise also tests local ability to shelter pets and livestock. Greenhill Humane Society and Lane County Animal Services ran through mock sheltering scenarios with evacuees fleeing with cats, dogs, ferrets, and a sheep.

Other exercise partners included Red Cross, Oregon Department of Human Services, Lane County Health & Human Services, and Oregon Emergency Management. There are also many individual volunteers from a variety of agencies acting as evacuees during the exercise.

Latiffe Amado acted as a Spanish speaking evacuee from Noti who fled a disaster with family members and animals. She was received by Red Cross volunteer Simone Kaiser who worked through the scenario by using Google Translate to communicate with Amado about relief services available.

"This role play was very helpful," said Kaiser. "I want to be ready for scenarios like this if they happen when I am deployed with the Red Cross."

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and worked in a variety of media including television, technical writing, photography and daily print news before moving to the Pacific Northwest.