HEFLIN -- According to Randy Moore, setting up an emergency shelter is a little more complex than just throwing out some cots.
It takes weeks of preparation, a careful eye for detail, patience, and most importantly, an ability to stay calm, even in the face of complete disaster.
"We don't tell people they're in a shelter," Moore told a group of about 20 Cleburne County residents Saturday morning as part of a free American Red Cross training session on setting up emergency shelters. "We want them to be as comfortable as possible."
Residents, who ranged from emergency management officials to members of local churches, listened for three hours Saturday morning as American Red Cross employees explained the organization behind keeping people safe after disaster. Cleburne County Administrator Steve Swafford, who helped organize the training session, said the lesson's timing is perfect.
"We had the ice storms earlier this year and a tornado warning," Swafford said. "I think that showed people the need for this."
Swafford said he was happy with the turnout Saturday, especially from members of two Baptist churches in Heflin, which he said act as the largest shelters in the area.
Saturday's sessions covered everything from the basics of setting up a shelter, to enforcing rules and doing an inventory of items and analysis after the disaster. Most importantly, Swafford said, was putting folks in a mindset of seeing how they can help out if ever they are in an emergency situation.
"That's very powerful to empower someone to go from a victim, to a responder," Swafford said. "That's the most important thing."
Andretti Daniel, who attended Saturday's training on behalf of the Cleburne County Helping Every Area Resident to Succeed group, said his biggest takeaway from the session was the togetherness of the community.
"I think sometimes when we're in our church groups, we only think about our church," Daniel said. "I think it's great to see people come together as a whole community to help out. That's what it is all about."