Click on the link above to read a post written by a volunteer and employee of ModSpace who partnered with the American Red Cross to serve as a volunteer supporting the Sandy relief efforts.
Its still hot. Its only going to get worse too. I’m not used to so much humidity.
We all got to headquarters from our hotel and started our jobs. Wendy gave us some unfortunate news. Well.. It wasn’t really unfortunate. Bittersweet. Our first friend we met on this DR (job) was on her way to New Orleans to be a staffing manager. We exchanged Facebook friendships and she went on her own path of adventure.
There was still a lot of the same thing going on here. Disaster Service Technology makes a disaster operations world go ’round here. Computers need to be set up or taken down, networking issues, print errors.
It probably sounds boring, working on computers, but when you take it in a disaster response perspective, it wakes you up. It becomes more urgent than convenient. It gives you the opportunity to have a positive effect on someone who is afflicted with the negativity of tragedy. If you’re an IT-guy and still feel used and abused after that little pep talk, you need to join the Red Cross.
Finally, today we got a new opportunity. It can get kinda boring behind a desk. So when you get a chance to do field operations… You take it. Let me out of my cage and let me go wild!
Noel and I were requested to respond to the warehouse and install a work laptop for the logistics team. It was an easy service call, and we went about our way.
The Celtic Media Centre of Baton Rouge graciously opened up 2 of their studio lots for the American Red Cross to open up Staff Shelters. Celtic Media Centre is known for movies filmed there such as the famed “Twilight”. The studio lots are huge. Alot of volunteers and responders will be calling this place “home” for a while. People don’t understand that it’s not all hotels and rental cars. At some point there will be a moment where the responder is really roughing it. It may not happen on this deployment, but eventually, it will happen. I mean, really… it’s a disaster zone. Don’t expect the Ritz when nature gives you the pits.
Today’s lesson of deployment… education and training. The best training I’ve found, is on-the-job training. I specialize in radio communications and technical deployment strategy, but here I’m spending 2 weeks learning hardcore network management and computer program and repair. And of course, be humble. There may have been a lot learned, but there is so much more to learn.
I’ve already started to lose track of days too. I’m finding myself going back to my bed, and falling asleep immediately. A lot of these posts are being written later, because I keep falling asleep.
Pete Wine is on deployment in response to Isaac in Louisiana
Day 2 – Sunday, 09.02.2012
Disasters don’t know anything about dates or time. They don’t know that in some cultures, Sundays are a day of rest, or a day of deity worship for others. They just happen without any regard for life or property. However, the American Red Cross knows all about dates, times, and cultures. And regardless of it’s your day of worship, or your day of rest, or your day of disaster, we’re still there to help.
We’ve been lucky too. A national disaster response often does not have some of the amenities that currently accompany our efforts. I was prepared to go to a shelter when I got here, and stay on a cot, or more likely the floor of a school gym, church, or warehouse for days. Instead, we were given rooms at a local Baton Rouge hotel that sustained damage during the Hurricane. The damage is enough that people won’t pay full price for the rooms, but they opened their doors for us. I am more than thankful for this opportunity.
0700 Came quick. I’m not a day-walker. I typically work a night shift, so this is extremely difficult. A shower, shave, and a shot of vitamins, and I’m meeting Noel and Wendy in the lobby, and giving another member a ride to our Disaster Headquarters in Port Allen. It’s a short trip. About 10 miles, and yes, you have to cross the Mighty Mississippi River! It’s something I’d never done before. Granted, I’ve flown over it once, but never actually crossed it and looked at the river itself. I made an agreement with myself right then and there that when I get a day of rest down here, I’d go down and either sit or stand on the banks of the river.
0730 Marked our arrival. Wendy and our companion went their way, and Noel and I joined our team for the first time. People tell me I’m good with computers, logistics, and communications, but this team is ELITE. I’m going to learn so much from them. This is going to go far beyond honing my “Google-Fu” or knowing how many engines and ladders respond on a fire call, or what my radar programs show. This team is comprised of Information Technology, Tech Support, MacGuyver’s, Radio Specialists, and adrenaline junkies like me. “Honey… I’m home.”
Being that it’s our first time in, I don’t expect to be doing anything extremely exciting. I can only imagine that they will have us doing grunt work, or menial tasks and train us on more things as we go. Yeah… I was wrong.
To coin the locals… Noel just “Took off like a catfish being released back into the bayou.” He’s definitely at home. Our jobs were in more of a customer support capacity. WE were here to fix the computers and different things in the Headquarters. Probably sounds boring to most of you, not enough action, but trust me…. When you’re learning something new, and meeting new people, boredom is by the wayside.
Each time you help a Red Cross Volunteer or Staff Member on a national response, you can pat yourself on the back because you’re a part of the system that has helped our hard working volunteers, but also anyone they have directly helped. And helped anyone who THEY helped. It’s a circle of life, strife, and recovered win!
I am not going to write about individual team members, mainly because they may want to keep their lives private, or have some other reason. (Some people just don’t like the media.) I will respect their wishes as much as I can. I will say that I do enjoy their company. A lot of them are like-minded. Beware of Geek in groups.
Now here’s something that blew my mind. Noel comes up to me, and starts talking to me about DTP, Disaster Technology Procedures. It’s essential the FAQ or SOP book for the office, or shelter, or work. He’d already written one entire policy! IT’S YOUR FIRST DAY AND YOU REWRITE DISASTER POLICY! He’s a real rock star. I know he’ll try to be all modest, but I’m not gonna let it happen. NOEL GREEN IS AN AWESOME MOTIVATED person at his job. He will be a manager or supervisor in no time. It happened a few more times too. That’s what you get when you send a former efficiency expert into a disaster center.
As soon as they found out that maintaining extensive notes and having a thorough nature when it comes to getting filing and inventory done, my fate was sealed for a few days at the least. Apparently the majority of the team hates inputting things into the computer and dealing with all the databases. Like I said.. I’m right at home with this task. Typing like a madman and having my own brand of fun with it. Tomorrow I’ll give you the lay of the land and each blog from here on out and also try to identify one or more groups and what they do.
We’re in an old shut down Wal-Mart. DST is set up in the back right-hand side of the building. Tables are in an L-formation, all with laptops on them. It looks to have been the old Automotive Department. Our gear is locked away in the actual garage portion of the automotive department. Boxes upon waterproof, shockproof, and shatterproof cases are stocked back here. Laptops, radios, other communications supplies, it’s all here. With us being by the garage, we can just load and go if we have to go out into the field for a mission.
Response “Groups” are like departments in an office building. Directly across from me, is Health Services. They fall under the group “Client Casework”. I was asked if I would be able to be deployed as an EMT earlier a week and a half ago, but I held out for DST. Besides, the majority of Health Services or “HS” as they will now be known are nurses! They can do so much more than I can out there. I went to bed early. It was actually difficult to get up. I am so tired.
Stay tuned, I get my first outside assignment, Noel, Wendy, and I would spend our last hours together, Same Red Cross Time, Same Red Cross Channel!!
Guest blogger and SEPA employee
Hancock County, Kiln, MS
Americorp and Red Cross volunteers man a modern emergency shelter for displaced victims of hurricane Issac. As the flood waters recede back to the overflowed branches and creeks, shelter residents have been returning to their homes to pick up their daily routines. Americorp volunteers Kirstin Heininger, and Lauren Watson along with Red Cross volunteer Samuel Allen and Mike Mahn dismantle sleeping quarters and prepare equipment for storage.
This shelter won’t close until the last displaced person has been able to find alternative living arrangements. When that happens most likely the Americorp and Red Cross volunteers will move on to support shelter efforts in other flood impacted areas.
As I write this, Tropical Storm (likely soon to be Hurricane) Isaac is barreling toward Florida and the Gulf Coast. Hundreds of thousands of people are potentially in harm’s way. It’s not a place most people want to be going. But right now, hundreds of Red Crossers are going there. They are headed there in advance of Isaac to help set up shelters, position equipment and supplies, and provide minor medical help and mental health counseling.
That’s what Red Crossers do. They go into places before, during, and after a natural disaster when most people are leaving. 15 people from my chapter are there now. I, however, am not one of them. I’d like to be, but I’m not and truth be told, part of me really wishes I was. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. But for something like this, as part of the American Red Cross Advanced Public Affairs Team (APAT), I would normally be on one of the first planes down there. Being an APAT member means being the voice and sometimes the face of the Red Cross during a national disaster, like a hurricane or tornado. I can sum it up in a DM I got over twitter from a fellow APAT member that asked the question, “Why aren’t you deploying sir?”
My answer: I’m sitting this one out, because I’m about to go on vacation. I know “boo-hoo” for me. “Poor Dave is missing a hurricane to go sit on a beach in the sun with his family.”
Again, I’m not complaining. But hear me out. I would never wish for a disaster, but what is happening in Florida is exactly what I’m trained for. It’s the most rewarding and exciting part of my job. There are about 50-60 other APAT members at the Red Cross, many of whom are in Florida now. They are great to work with. And they are already doing an amazing job. I miss being a part of that.
It’s funny, today I’m sort of (but not really) complaining that my vacation was interrupting my ability to respond to a hurricane. But this time last year, I was complaining that a hurricane was interrupting my vacation.
Irene hit this very same weekend. The same weekend my vacation was supposed to begin. But unlike Isaac, Irene was striking where I live; where my Red Cross Chapter is. Not helping was not an option. I spent the first night of my vacation in a Red Cross shelter instead of walking the boardwalk eating junk food. Over the next few days, I helped my chapter and our national headquarters manage media and response in the Philly area. My vacation got delayed. I was bummed. My family was even more bummed. Mother Nature had picked an inconvenient time to show her wrath.
Same goes for this week. Any other week, I could help with the Red Cross response. But I wasn’t about to miss my vacation again. I am not about to disappoint my family again. The Red Cross will manage just fine without me.
The moral of this story is not that Dave likes to complain, though I realize it is easy to draw that conclusion. The moral is, disaster never waits for when it’s convenient. Mother Nature can choose to be angry at any moment. She can disrupt my life, your life, all our lives at the drop of a hat.
That’s why you need to be prepared. That’s why you need to have a plan for what you would do if Mother Nature was suddenly inconvenient. Don’t just assume it can wait until tomorrow. If you need help with developing that plan, go to our website, RedCrossPhilly.org. It has lots of great, free advice.
A secondary moral is to be thankful for the Red Cross and the many, many thousands of volunteers willing to have their lives interrupted on a moment’s notice to go into a potentially dangerous place, to help people they never met recover from something that’s usually far worse than just an inconvenience.
Have you ever contemplated the difficulties people face when a natural disaster strikes? Have you ever known someone who had been so moved by the scenes of a disaster that they wanted to help? With Hurricane warnings going into effect down in the Caribbean and parts of Florida bracing for Hurricane Isaac, the American Red Cross SEPA chapter is bracing to respond to Hurricane Isaac as well by sending 11 volunteers to Florida with preparation and relief efforts in mind in the event that the hurricane makes landfall.
Let’s talk about those volunteer efforts. It’s always phenomenal to see people help other people. In those moments strangers become family. Volunteers are enormously valuable during a disaster. Still, during disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, there were such a vast number of people who wanted to help, that some showed up to disaster locations without an affiliation to work with or even a place to stay. This isn’t the case for Red Cross volunteers, as the Red Cross champions volunteer efforts during a disaster and makes sure every volunteer has a purpose and a place. Most of all, the Red Cross encourages organized volunteer efforts and invites you to become a Red Cross volunteer. Here at the Red Cross SEPA Chapter and at every Red Cross chapter nationwide, volunteers who are sent to major distress sites gain experience first by volunteering with their local Red Cross chapter. The Red Cross trains individuals before they are sent out to provide assistance and the Red Cross will also make sure that their volunteers have food and lodging in anticipation of venturing to a place that may be far from home.
Disaster relief work has never been easy. The will to volunteer in itself is a vital component to becoming part of a relief effort team but there is a reason the Red Cross offers training to individuals before they set out to help. Disaster relief efforts can be demanding and necessitate lengthy hours of service. The environment, in which one works, can sometimes be in uncomfortable climates or at uncomfortable temperatures. Volunteers must be ready to engage in dialogue with people who may be in different stages of emotional distress. Volunteers must also be prepared themselves to come to a place where everything has been turned upside down after a disaster.
If you want to respond to large disasters like Katrina, Irene, or even Isaac, the Red Cross wants you and will make sure you are trained and prepared when the time comes to respond. In fact the Red Cross has a Disaster Services Human Resource (DSHR) team that evaluates individuals, making sure that they are in a fair state of health, making sure that they are properly trained and making sure that they are assigned according to their desires and strengths to serve. This is so volunteers can work in the capacity they are most comfortable. This is also because the Red Cross not only cares about the survivors they help but also the Red Cross team members who provide that vital help.
Want to become one of our heroes? You can… just click here to get started!
Our volunteers talk about leaving for Florida to help with relief efforts there.
Jabril Redmond, guest, volunteer blogger
With Hurricane Isaac on its way, you can now keep track of your loved ones who are in disasters path! The American Red Cross released its new official hurricane app for iPhone and Android users. And while it won’t be able to stop the awful conditions, it will help you be prepared with easy to understand and follow step-by-step instructions. So, before you rush out to the grocery store for eggs and bread, I would suggest downloading this FREE app for preloaded checklists, tracker maps, and alerts.
Fortunately, I have not experienced extreme hurricane conditions in my lifetime, but I have loved ones who live in areas more prone to such conditions than Philadelphia, like Florida and New Jersey. This app sends you real-time hurricane alerts for your area, or any location that you choose. These alerts are sent straight to your phone as soon as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issues them, even if the app is closed. For each location you set to monitor, the app sends you hurricane warnings, as well as alerts for tropical storms and floods.
What I think is great about this app is the toolkit located in the top left corner. It comes with emergency tools like a flashlight, strobe light, alarm and an “I’m Safe” feature. This allows you to connect with others to let them know you are ok in the face of danger with only the touch of a button. You can personalize your message beforehand and share via Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and email.
You’d be amazed how the littlest preparations could save you from a lot of grief. Some of these hurricane preparedness tips are ones that I would never think of, like filling your car’s gas tank or putting your refrigerator on its coldest setting – so if you lose power, the contents will stay cooler longer. In addition to preparation pointers, this app has information on what to do immediately before, during and after the hurricane hits.
There is also a feature that lets users map locations and shelter details across the United States. You can zoom in on local area and view details on each shelter, such as which agency is managing the shelter, its capacity and current population, the disaster event and the specific shelter address or location. It is quick and easy.
This app is useful even when you’re not necessarily faced with an alert or warning at the moment. Prepare for disaster by testing your hurricane knowledge and preparedness. There are three quiz categories (history, knowledge and prepare) in which you can earn achievements and share them with your friends. And if you are particularly interested in hurricane history, you can also look back 150 years and see how many hurricanes have hit your area. In Philadelphia, we’ve experienced 34 hurricanes – the top speed being 135 mph!
The hurricane app is the second in a series of preparedness apps the Red Cross is releasing. Several weeks ago, the Red Cross unveiled a first-aid app that has been very helpful to me in providing tips for treating major and minor medical emergencies. Needless to say I was excited to add another preparedness app to use in case of disaster. (Not to mention, many preparedness tips and tactics can easily translate to other disasters.)
Take a look at this video for more information: