VALDOSTA -- The Valdosta chapter of the American Red Cross will conduct a training exercise April 17 in Quitman.

The exercise will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Bethel AME Church, 1203 S. Court. St. The church can hold about 100 people, said Penelope White, executive director. There are about 115 trained shelter workers in Brooks County, and they are encouraged to attend the training exercise.

The Red Cross trained shelter workers will provide an opportunity for Brooks County Red Cross volunteers to practice what they've learned, White said.

"The Bethel AME Church was the first certified Red Cross shelter in Brooks County and is one of 17 shelters in the five counties of Brooks, Clinch, Echols, Lanier and Lowndes Counties. Eventually, we want to hold these exercises in the other counties," White said.

One of the things that will be accomplished will be registration, which is vital to identify the number of people in the shelter and the amount of food needed. Registration is one of the most important tasks to keep track of the people in the shelter, White said. The trained shelter personnel will also have individuals who will specialize in health services such as getting prescriptions that might be needed by people in the shelter. Other services would be food, especially if someone has a special diet, and another area will be allocating sleeping spaces.

The volunteers will go through steps on how to run the shelter setting, to include setting up a feeding area, play area for children and possibly an area for senior citizens. "The process is to get them comfortable with their tasks in the facility," White said.

White's thoughts go back to Hurricane Floyd when thousands of people left their homes from South Carolina and Florida to converge in Valdosta. The American Red Cross could only house about 450 people at the Mathis Auditorium for two nights. "The disaster determines how long the shelter will be open," she added.

"With the world situation, it's important that communities can handle emergency situations," White said.

For information about the shelter exercise at the Bethel AME Church, call (229) 263-8900.

To contact reporter Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, ext. 237.

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