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Boise Red Cross holds emergency exercise, asks “Would you know how to handle a disaster?”

Boise Red Cross prepares for potential emergencies. Would you know what to do?

The regional branch of the American Red Cross on Saturday held an evacuation and shelter exercise at North Junior High School in the North End, preparing Red Cross volunteers for a potential emergency. Organizers urged Treasure Valley residents to
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The regional branch of the American Red Cross on Saturday held an evacuation and shelter exercise at North Junior High School in the North End, preparing Red Cross volunteers for a potential emergency. Organizers urged Treasure Valley residents to

Busloads of Boise State University students on Saturday arrived at North Junior High School to help the regional Red Cross of America in an evacuation and shelter exercise.

The scenario? A wicked winter storm has blown through Boise, knocking out part of the electrical grid, along with power to BSU dorms and leaving hundreds of students in the cold without power. That's where the Red Cross — and Ada County emergency services, along with groups like the Salvation Army and Idaho Foodbank — comes into play.

"The Red Cross is all about planning for disasters and preparing for disasters," said regional CEO Nicole Sirak-Irwin." ... It takes a village to put something like this together. A lot of the training is volunteer training, and it builds confidence."

Volunteers practice shelter set-up, checking in and directing evacuees, providing mental and physical health services, doling out snacks and more. And while wildfires are still the Idaho Red Cross's biggest concern, Sirak-Irwin said this time of year sees a lot of house fires due to space heaters, holiday decorations and more, and she'd like to see Treasure Valley residents ready for those emergencies, too.

"The Table Rock fire got a lot of people thinking about preparedness," she said.

Her advice? Put photos on the digital "cloud," have a "go bag" of important documents and items and make sure kids and pets are part of your plan. There's a Red Cross app that includes checklists and resources for many of these points.

Communications director Anna Fernandez-Gevaert said the organization is always accepting volunteers and donations as well.

Nicole Blanchard: 208-377-6410, @NMBlanchard

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