On Friday, April 5, about 40 volunteers gathered at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve headquarters to experience a mock disaster.

Trainer Adraine Kreglo, a consultant provided through the Volunteer Florida's Best Neighborhoods grant awarded to Franklin's Promise Coalition, led the exercise. Kreglo has run a volunteer center in Manatee County for more than 30 years.

Participants were introduced to “Stormsmart Coast” internet resource and briefed on techniques for dealing with spontaneous volunteers.

Kreglo explained that in some situations, volunteers can become a liability rather than an asset. Often, limiting access to chaotic post-disaster areas is more important and difficult than finding willing workers. She said that even if asked to stay away, people with affection for the area may arrive on scene wanting to help.

An overabundance of some supplies, looters and people who are confused or distraught also present challenges in the aftermath of a storm or other disaster.

Kreglo said she prefers pen and paper communication during training sessions to high-tech tools because electricity is so frequently lost during disasters. “In some cases I have literally had to use runners for communication,” she said.

The importance of safety briefing and proper clothing and equipment was also emphasized.

Volunteers played the rolls of dispatchers and “problem volunteers” as the community prepared to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Zeke.

“Our goal is to bring together a network of volunteers from across the county to assist in planning for, responding to and recovering from disasters,” said Franklin’s Promise Executive Director Joe Taylor

The next training opportunity will be at 9 a.m. April 30 at Carrabelle City Hall, where points of emergency food and material distribution will be designated in Lanark, Carrabelle, Eastpoint and Apalachicola.

Anyone wishing to work with the group can call Franklin's Promise Coalition at 653-0176. - By LOIS SWOBODA