When rolling blackouts raised the possibility of the power going off for extended periods, and when icy bridges threatened travel, the shelters in Blanco County were standing by in case they were needed as places cold people could warm up or stranded travelers could wait for the ice to melt.
As it turned out, the shelters weren’t needed, and that was a lucky thing, because in Blanco we couldn’t have opened them.
But it was a good reminder that Blanco still isn’t ready to take care of itself — of its own residents and neighbors — in such a crisis.
The American Red Cross has done a good job of arranging for spaces that could be used as shelters if needed, and they’ve even stocked some emergency supplies in the south end of the county. Blanco facility-owners have been good about agreeing to let their space be used in a time of need.
But if we ever had to open our shelters, whether for an ice storm or tornado or flood, we wouldn’t have the trained volunteers ready to run even one of them.
If every shelter-trained volunteer in Blanco were available to report for duty at the same time, we could open one shelter for one shift.
If the need were greater than that, if we needed two shelters open, or if we needed to operate ‘round the clock, we would have to ask the Red Cross to send in volunteers from outside to do it for us. Blanco couldn’t stand on its own.
That’s an odd situation, because Blanco has more shelter space committed than Johnson City, yet Johnson City has many times the number of trained shelter volunteers we do. If we and our neighbors needed temporary emergency shelter, we couldn’t provide it for ourselves.
We would have to depend on Johnson City to come down to Blanco and run our shelters for us, because that’s the pool of workers the Red Cross would have to call on.
It was the same way with the flu shot clinics last winter. The Texas Department of State Health Services held training for shot clinic volunteers in both Blanco and Johnson City... even in tiny Cypress Mill... but it was north Blanco County residents who showed up for the classes and had to help run our shot clinics for us.
We have a chance to fix that, a chance to show we can handle our own emergency needs without having to call Johnson City for help.
The Red Cross is offering its new, shortened class for new volunteers on Saturday morning, February 19, from 9 to 12:30 at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Blanco. The training is free and lasts six hours, plus a break for lunch.
Graduates will be able to serve as shelter staff for the Red Cross for small emergencies here at home, or even take their news skills elsewhere for larger incidents if they choose. There’s no obligation...just opportunity.
With our own trained corps of volunteers ready to respond to the needs we and our neighbors may have in the future, we’ll be ready for whatever happens...without having to hope Johnson City will do our job for us.
Martha Mason is a Blanco resident and a member of the board of directors of the Hill County Chapter of the American Red Cross, which serves Blanco County.