HELENA – AmeriCorps State and VISTA members participated in a whole community disaster simulation Friday at Carroll College.

The simulation was part of the ServeMontana Symposium.

The symposium is an annual event sponsored by Gov. Steve Bullock. It brings AmeriCorps State and VISTA members and staff from across the state to further opportunities for service and collaboration.

This year’s theme, “Montana: A Symphony of Service”, will, according to the website, “Emphasize the skills, information-sharing and training needed to ensure that AmeriCorps members can best serve their communities, whether at the start of their service term or as they near the end and seek future opportunities.”

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The simulation was an interactive, role playing activity that demonstrated the whole community aspect of disaster response and recovery. It helped members gain a greater understanding of personal preparedness while also teaching them how volunteers could play a role if disaster were to strike.

Participants included emergency managers, faith based organizations, government agencies, FEMA and AmeriCorps members.

AmeriCorps members said the biggest hurdle in managing a disaster is the chaos and confusion that comes with it. They added that having everyone prepared and knowledgeable of what to do is critical.

Megan Helton of AmeriCorps Montana said, “This helps prepare members that if they are called upon to respond to a disaster they understand that there is a lot of chaos. But it also I think breeds some empathy that it’s difficult for survivors to navigate the system and figure out the resources that are needed.

For more information about AmeriCorps click here.