Volunteers Train for Phone Ops During Large Emergencies

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Trainings for volunteer call takers during large emergencies in the Pikes Peak region are taking place this week.  It’s a collaboration between Pikes Peak United Way 211, the City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.  KRCC’s Martha Perez-Sanz was at the first gathering and has this report. 

More than 40 people gathered at Centennial Hall Monday to hear representatives from regional and government organizations deliver a slide presentation. Attendees were also given a manual on what to expect answering phones during an emergency and how to speak with those who may be distressed.

Director of Pikes Peak United Way 211 Michelle Milner says the call for volunteers comes after lessons learned from the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest Fires and later floods.

"211 doesn’t have the capacity to take on all those calls, neither does the JIC," Milner said, referring to the Joint Information Center that's established during emergencies. "So we thought the best thing to do would be to collaborate and work together so that we can have a larger response to the public when they need our assistance."

Miler says 110 volunteers have signed up for the program.

After the presentation as attendees lined up to speak with representatives, Colorado Springs resident Sue Gerlach sat in the auditorium. Milner is Gerlach’s sister, and she said seeing the work they do inspired her to volunteer.

"I saw first-hand how difficult it was managing a call center during a disaster," Gerlach said. "I had no idea how complicated and emotionally draining something like that could be. So I’ve waited this whole year now and I’ve decided that now it’s time for me to volunteer in the call center."

The nature of emergencies may vary, and officials say the volunteer pool will operate on an on-call basis. 

The next scheduled training is this  morning from 9 to 11 at Centennial Hall in Colorado Springs.