Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Seeing-Eye Parakeet

What do the following have in common?

A parakeet as a service animal....

A cat-smuggling elderly woman...

A confused, old man who loves Andy Griffith on TV and wants to sit by the window by day and wanders at night...

Give up?

These are all scenarios from an American Red Cross exercise that I participated in yesterday - and what a fun & interesting exercise it was!

We have 28 counties in the state of Missouri all participating in this exercise - some did it yesterday, while others are participating today. The exercise is practicing and honing our "Sheltering" skills - which could be needed during a major storm, an earthquake, a flood - who knows? But what we DO know is that we want our volunteers to be prepared - before the time comes - and hence the call yesterday to come in and report to "duty" at a shelter.

I had about 10 or so volunteers come in, where I observed and guided them in setting up the shelter....Once they had the shelter set up, I pulled a few of the volunteers out and designated them as my "actors." They were given different scenarios, or roles, to play - and I watched & evaluated how our other volunteers responded and reacted to what was being thrown at them.

It was fun - and yet educational - all at the same time. I encouraged my actors by telling them the Academy Awards were coming soon - and I would be handing out Oscars for the best performances of the day. They really, really got into their roles - thereby earning the titles of "Future Meryl Streep" - or "Wanna-be Al Pacino."

I had an enthusiastic "cheerleader" show up with $200 she wanted to donate to the shelter - how do we handle that? I had a vivacious woman show up with a dozen "cupcakes" she had baked and decorated and wanted to give to the residents of the shelter - what do we do with food that the public brings? I had fights break out, accusations of weapons, drunkenness, bratty children, a pushy television reporter, a bed-wetter - if you can think of it, we probably did it! All in the name of fun - but all designed to have our volunteers ready if they were ever faced with the same - or similar - situation in a real shelter. The American Red Cross has protocols that we follow - and this training helped the volunteers by reinforcing the protocols in a simulated situation....

By the afternoon, when I was exhausted, my actors and volunteers were exhausted, and we had sat around and discussed what went well - and perhaps what could have gone better - I asked them if they had found the exercise helpful.

Without a doubt, they all agreed it had been wonderful - and they had found new confidence in their Sheltering skills. In fact, one participant chirped, "I would love to see us do this, like, every 2 months or so."

Yikes. Better get my creative hat back on and come up with some more scenarios. Besides actors, perhaps I'd better start hiring script writers.....but even the BEST Hollywood script writer wouldn't have come up with a scenario of a woman trying to pass off a parakeet as a service animal....!



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