Faced with a shortage of volunteers and ever-present earthquake danger, officials of the Ventura chapter of the American Red Cross said they plan to hold training seminars later this month aimed at rebuilding a dwindling corps of relief workers.
"We can get ahold of food and blankets and cots in a pinch, but we need people trained in disaster assistance," said Lenore Gabel, the chapter's spokeswoman.
"We have more than 300 trained volunteers, but that wouldn't be nearly enough people to handle a catastrophic earthquake."
In major disasters, the Red Cross counts on trained volunteers to administer first aid, provide food and shelter, locate trapped survivors and assess damage.
With the San Andreas Fault along the northern border of the Ventura Basin and other fault lines riddling the Santa Barbara Channel, the county faces the possibility of a major earthquake, said Thomas Headon, chief scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Pasadena office.
Last October's Bay Area earthquake, along with the recent Santa Barbara fire, generated dozens of calls to the Red Cross Ventura chapter from people offering to lend assistance in the event of a local disaster, said Scott Eaton, a volunteer supervisor of food and shelter operations for the Red Cross. But virtually all of the prospective volunteers had to be turned away because of a lack of training, he said.
"We appreciated those offers, but it is very difficult to work effectively with untrained personnel during chaotic situations," Eaton said.
The training courses are scheduled for Sept. 29 and 30 at Cabrillo Middle School in Ventura, Gabel said.
Volunteers before had to travel as far away as Los Angeles for such training.
Gabel said the courses will include an overview of disaster relief programs, instruction in managing shelter and food operations, doing damage assessments, and a basic lifesaving class.