Volunteer organizations make it easier to head to Texas to help Hurricane Harvey victims

Training can take as little as 2 hours
Posted at 6:08 AM, Aug 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-30 10:42:03-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, volunteer organizations have streamlined their systems to make it easier for people who want to do more than donate money to disaster relief efforts.

The Red Cross is hoping to have 4,000 volunteers on the ground in Houston by the end of the week. To do that, they've made their certification and sign ups simple.

"We do an abbreviated training," said Victor Roosen, the Regional Disaster Officer for the Red Cross in San Diego.

"There's a two hour online training and that will get you out the door and headed to Texas."

People who want to volunteer can go to the Red Cross website to register. After a background check, they'll be contacted about ways to help. Most of the volunteers will work in shelters around Texas.

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"The number of people and stuff and training we need right now is just unprecedented for the Red Cross," said Roosen.

Meanwhile, other relief groups have taken similar steps.

Crisis Response International, a faith based volunteer group, has lowered the cost of their online volunteer training. The two-day course typically costs $200. Because of the need for Hurricane Harvey, they're offering it now for just $50.

"We'll take people with all kinds of skill sets," said Mike Wyatt, CRI's Deployment Director.

Like the Red Cross, volunteers with CRI need to pass background checks and apply.

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Both groups stress the need for people to sign up and get certified, rather than heading to Houston on their own.

"Being self deployed is not a good idea," said Roosen. "It's dangerous there, and if you're not part of a certified or qualified relief organization, you'll be turned away."

He said law enforcement will crack down on individual volunteers to help avoid scams and people taking advantage of victims.

For people who want to help, but don't want to leave San Diego, the Red Cross has a need for volunteers to stay in town.

They've already been taking overflow emergency calls, as 911 in Houston gets overwhelmed.

"The calls are just heartbreaking," said Roosen.

Because of the advanced technology at San Diego's Red Cross Headquarters, the building will be used as a call center for case workers to help Harvey victims after the storm passes.

"We'll be working with people on the phone to help them get settled for the long term," said Roosen.

The San Diego office will also be used for virtual mapping of damage in Texas, tracking which homes have the worst damage.

"We'll also help with logistics, rolling out the proper supplies to assist people for whatever they need," Roosen said.