KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The East Tennessee Chapter of the American Red Cross is organizing efforts to help with the relief of Hurricane Ian, and here is how you can help.

Hurricane Ian has the potential to bring major destruction, as it edges very close to becoming a category 5 hurricane. The hurricane is closing in on the coast as a category 4 hurricane, with winds just two mph below a category 5 classification according to reports from WATE’s sister station WFLA.

To help with the damage this storm leaves behind, the Tennessee Region of the Red Cross has already deployed nearly 60 volunteers, while working to train more shelter volunteers to deploy later according to Sharon Hudson Executive Director East Tennessee Chapter for the Red Cross.

“Red Cross is under a mandate. When there is an emergency, the Red Cross is required to provide trained, skilled volunteers, to assist in any disaster, whether it is an evacuation or an emergency shelter.”

A release sent from the Red Cross on Tuesday details that trainings for shelter workers will be taking place through the East Tennessee Chapter of the American Red Cross Wednesday, September 28 at 3 p.m., and Thursday, September 29 at 5 p.m. at 6921 Middlebrook Pike in Knoxville.

Other chapters nearby are also offering training, including:

  • The Northeast Tennessee Chapter, at 660 Eastern Star Road in Kingsport
    • Thursday, September 29 at 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
  • The Southeast Tennessee Chapter, at 4115 S. Access Road in Chattanooga
    • Wednesday, September 28 at 12:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, October 1 at 10 a.m.

More training is also happening across the state. To read the full press release about the Red Cross’s response to disasters in Florida, Puerto Rico, and Alaska, including the additional training across the state, click here.

In training, Hudson says that volunteers are trained for mass care, HIPPA, that no one is turned away, and what the Red Cross provides. The Red Cross’s mission is to provide food, shelter, and emotional support to disaster survivors according to Hudson. She says that the training provides volunteers with the knowledge they need before, such as what they will see when at the shelter, how to bring what they need as a volunteer, and how to best meet the needs of every client.

When it comes to requirements, there are places for nearly everyone to help, although some specialized positions are available. According to the Red Cross website, 90% of the Red Cross Workforce is volunteers. Find out more about volunteering with the Red Cross here.

“We want volunteers that are interested in working with clients. People with a health background are great. You have to have some level of volunteer management, as far as knowing that stress levels are high, so someone that’s compassionate, that can really think on their feet.” Hudson said. “But we also help in that training to ensure that when the clients come through, that, you know, they’re on their worst day. So how can we make sure that we get them what they need.”

Hudson also said that generally, volunteers are assigned to positions to best fit their skill set through the thorough process that the Red Cross uses, so where volunteers go may depend on their skills. For those who have gone through the training, there is a discussion of deploying, which usually includes the volunteer being at their location for about two weeks.

For those volunteering at shelters, they may be anywhere along the coast, such as in Florida, Alabama, or the Carolinas according to Hudson, although in previous hurricanes there have been some who evacuate to Tennessee.

“In that instance, we have shelter agreements with a lot of great community partners. I know the last, I don’t remember if it was Michael or Harvey, we worked with Central Baptist on Kingston Pike, and we opened up a shelter for those evacuees that came all the way here.” Hudson said.

For those who want to help, but volunteering isn’t an option, there are other ways to support the Red Cross’ efforts. Hudson explained that people can support the Red Cross by giving blood, money, or time. While many may want to supply physical donations, the Red Cross requests monetary donations as it best supports the individuals and communities impacted. The Red Cross is not in a position to collect, store, and transport items because of the logistics, according to Hudson, however, the Red Cross works with community partners nationwide to provide the physical items needed in an emergency, such as bottled water.

“When you donate money, and put money into the hands of that client, they in turn spend that money in their community.” Hudson said.

To donate to the Red Cross, click here, call 800-RED-CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

There are also ways to help the Red Cross locally after Hurricane Ian passes.

“Locally, we have individuals that work at our front desk. We have individuals that help prepare kits. After a family has a home fire, we have comfort care kits. We serve military members and their families. We teach this great course called Pillowcase Projects, and you can train for that.” said Hudson.

To find out about these opportunities and other local opportunities, go to redcross.org and sign up. After signing up, there is a process involving an interview to match up each volunteer with the best position that fits them.