Red Cross Employee Pete Wine (right) with Volunteer Joe Cirullo
in front of studio 4 where the movie “Twilight” was filmed.
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