ANDERSON — Community members from across central Indiana united to reorganize and rebuild Pendleton after a tornado tore through the town two weeks ago.

And while dozens of community organizations came together to feed, house and support residents in the wake of the devastation, one of the largest national organizations was the American Red Cross.

John Montgomery, Red Cross disaster program specialist for east central Indiana, attributed the organization’s ability to hastily create a shelter with years of training longtime volunteers go through to be prepared before they are needed.

“We set up shelters and helped them, and we can do that because we have trained to do that. We are constantly training,” Montgomery said.

While the relief effort is winding down, Montgomery said he hopes some of those who helped in the wake of the tornado will continue to work and train for the next disaster.

“There are many different aspects for the Red Cross you can help with. … One thing we do is prepare for something like this (and) we work with them to prepare so that when something like this happens we are ready,” he said.

The Red Cross offers dozens of training programs, many of which can be equally applied to some of life’s smaller obstacles and large-scale disasters like tornadoes or floods.

Volunteers can gain certifications in areas like first aid, AED use and CPR, along with more specific programs like water safety or child care.

Classes take place either in a classroom setting or through online courses and end with a review test.

Each year, more than 6.25 million people receive Red Cross training and information in first aid, water safety and other skills that help save lives, according to a press release from the organization.

And while many smaller certifications can help prepare for everyday issues — the Red Cross also offers broader “Be Prepared” training.

The Red Cross offers classes to help prepare for disasters at home, at school or workplaces.

There are also free Red Cross Apps available for mobile devices that give people tools they can use every day to help be prepared, stay safe and save lives.

The Red Cross also conducts programs to help organizations be prepared. Ready Rating is a free, web-based program designed to help businesses, organizations and schools become better prepared for emergencies.

According to the Ready Rating website, members complete a self-assessment of their current readiness level and receive immediate, customized feedback with resources to improve their scores.

Montgomery said it’s these types of course and everyday preparedness that can mean the difference between life or death.

But for those who want to make a bigger commitment to the organization, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers to join the disaster response team to help organize and take part in responses to disasters like the tornado in Pendleton.

While there is a process to join, Montgomery urged anyone who thinks they may want to take on a larger role to sign up online at and click “become a disaster volunteer.”

“This kind of thing doesn’t happen very often in our communities, thank God, but we can’t be too prepared,” he said. “And we are always looking for volunteers.”

To volunteer

Sign up online at and click “become a disaster volunteer.”