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Disaster Relief Shelter Drill Hosted At Club NewFit



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Club NewFit hosted a mock Disaster Relief Shelter Drill on Sunday, May 29, and Boy Scouts in three troops participated to work toward earning a merit badge.

Club NewFit owner and event organizer Tom Tavar said he came up with the idea, inspired by his sons needing to complete a merit badge, on Wednesday, May 25, and had more than 60 participants that Sunday when the event was held.

"It was a good turnout," Mr Tavar said on Tuesday, May 31.

The objective for the event was to simulate a disaster, he said, and there was some communication failure during the day when the walkie-talkie's batteries gave out.

"But that was very good," said Mr Tavar, "because that is exactly what could happen."

For the event, Club NewFit was outfitted for disaster relief capabilities according to FEMA's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) guidelines.

Stations were set up to demonstrate and allow participants to practice things like medical triage and basic first aid instruction. Other stations included a food and water, and a shelter area was set up inside Club NewFit to simulate helping people who may have lost their home and were in need of a place to stay for the night.

A disaster scenario was created for the event that read, "Hurricane Baden, a Category-5 hurricane, has hit the Northeast Coast and caused catastrophic damage to many Connecticut towns.

"The towns of Newtown, Monroe, Southbury, and Bethel have been severely damaged. In the aftermath of the storm the Connecticut National Guard has been mobilized and a curfew has been set for dusk. Over 100,000 people have lost their homes and thousands have been injured and many have died.

"The Newtown Fitness Center [Club NewFit] has been repurposed as a Disaster Relief Shelter to assist the State & Federal Agencies," according to organizers.

Community members and representatives of local organizations were welcome to participate in the drill either as a victim, a response volunteer, or as an observer, according to a release for the event.

Boy Scouts from Newtown Troop 270, Norwalk Troop 14, and Bethel Troop 71 participated in the event. Attending and participating in the drill satisfied one requirement out of multiple requirements for the Emergency Preparedness merit badge.

The Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps was also represented at the event.

"It was very, very informative," said Mr Tavar.

Following the event, Troop 270 Scoutmaster Leon Demers, who was the incident command chief for the drill, said the mock Disaster Relief Shelter Drill was "great."

The participating scouts all worked together, Mr Demers said. The scouts were split into groups to work through the drill. Two search and rescue teams had to practice making their own structures to provide potential victims shelter, according to Mr Demers.

Scouts between ages 12 and 14 participated, Mr Demers said, and some family members also stayed to participate.

"It was a very good event for all the families to be involved in," said Mr Demers.

Both Mr Tavar and Mr Demers said they do not expect another drill like the May 29 event to be held in town for another few years, because, Mr Demers said, it will take that long before another group of Boy Scouts will be ready to earn the Emergency Preparedness merit badge.

Boy Scouts from Newtown Troop 270, Norwalk Troop 14, and Bethel Troop 71 gathered together for a photo just before the Sunday, May 29, mock Disaster Relief Shelter Drill began at Club NewFit. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
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