Experts say we are in for a busy hurricane season this year, so The American Red Cross of New Jersey is looking for more local volunteers to train and help Jersey communities.

The novel coronavirus pandemic makes it challenging to deploy volunteers from other parts of the country, said America Red Cross New Jersey CEO Rosie Taravella. That's why local volunteers are desperately needed.

Training during COVID-19 will be interesting. Typically, the Red Cross would open a shelter in a gymnasium. With this pandemic, the group is looking for a dormitory-type setting or emergency hotel lodging that keeps clients and staff safe, Taravella said.

If a a hotel stay is not possible, the Red Cross will go back to using traditional shelters. But to keep people safe, additional safety precautions will be put in place. Training will teach people how to set up the shelters with social distancing.

Taravella said volunteers are needed to help staff shelter reception, registration, feeding and dormitory information collection. She said these are vital tasks but they don't require a lot of specific professional background.

The Red Cross is looking for those with a health services background as well. It's seeking RNs, LPNs and paramedics with active, current licenses. Volunteers will help assess people's health. Daily observation and health screening for COVID-19-like illness among shelter residents may also be required.

"Anyone who is interested in this, please know there are some RNs on our volunteer staff who will be supervising any clinical tasks that have to go on in the shelter," Taravella said. "There's plenty of support, plenty to learn. It's a pretty quick and easy training and it's so needed at this time,"

Furry friends need help too during hurricanes and disasters. Taravella said when people leave their homes during an emergency, they take their pets with them. The Red Cross is looking for established partner organizations that can help support the pet sheltering effort either on-site or nearby.

Taravella said while there are about 120 established volunteers who are interested in taking the training to work during COVID-19, about 300 more are needed, including 40 nurses and medical professionals.

Anyone interested in volunteering should go to redcross.org/volunteertoday or send an email to joinnj@redcross.org.

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