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SOUTH COUNTY – The towns of South Kingstown and Narragansett are collaborating to form a volunteer emergency response team, which will staff a new joint emergency shelter.
Instead of having two shelters at Narragansett and South Kingstown high schools, residents of both towns will now take shelter at South Kingstown High School. This will allow emergency officials and volunteers to join forces.
The idea to unite the towns in case of emergency was born as a result of the past couple of tropical storms and hurricanes that have affected both towns, according to Jim Cotter, chief of the Narragansett Fire Department.
“We found out last year through [Hurricane] Irene that if we really get something the best thing to do is go with a bi-town shelter,” Cotter said, referring to any potential future storms.
Vincent Vespia, chief of South Kingstown Police, also attested to the fact that the two towns strongly considered consolidating emergency preparedness operations during “natural disasters and critical incidents” throughout the past two or three years.
The decision to create a bi-town shelter was made in May at a meeting of public safety representatives from both towns.
“A component of the plan was to seek to enlarge the numbers of volunteers,” Vespia said.
According to Cotter, the bi-town shelter and joint volunteer staff would allow for additional shelter hours and volunteers to work shifts, should the shelter remain open for an extended period of time.
Officials hope to recruit about 50 volunteers, who will receive Red Cross training. These volunteers would ideally assist in other areas as well.
“We would have more volunteers for any type of disaster, not just hurricanes,” Cotter said, citing the example of an H1N1 clinic.
A public informational meeting will be held Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. at the South Kingstown Public Safety Complex on Kingstown Road. Current, former and new volunteers are invited to attend. Those who decide to volunteer and join the team will receive training from the Red Cross and emergency officials at a later date.
Individuals looking for additional information prior to the meeting may contact Southern Rhode Island Volunteers at 401-552-7661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.