As a volunteer for the American Red Cross, I'm down helping relief efforts from the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac with the Red Cross. Follow updates of the progress via my Twitter feed @parrotheaddad5!
September 6, 2012
Consolidation was today's focus. We closed one warehouse and have begun a push to get goods to local chapters throughout southeast Louisiana to continue efforts to put our services within reach of those affected by Hurricane Isaac. All signs lead to DR-734 heading toward its wrap up phase.
It has been a fantastic and heartbreaking experience to serve on the ground here in Louisiana. I've seen the best that people from all over the world have to offer, and I've seen selflessness and compassion in their purest forms. My deployment officially ends tomorrow, but I will have my new friends and this experience with me for the rest of my life.
Another tropical depression looms in the Gulf as I write this, and the Red Cross is asking all members in Florida to update their availability status. Disasters do not take the time to check and see if calendars are clear. With this experience under my belt, I will be ready for the next one whether at home in Indiana or abroad. I will pass along my knowledge from Isaac to help people prepare; to lessen the impact that disasters may bring, and help ensure that we maintain a front line of defense when they do.
Godspeed to those in the Red Cross who remain on the ground and to those victims of Isaac who are now piecing their lives back together.
September 5, 2012
Devastated. The only word I can use to describe the lives of those who have impacted the most by Isaac. On the ground I saw some of the worst of that today in Slidell, Louisiana. This beautiful town on the northeastern shore of Lake Pontchartrain saw massive amounts of flooding due to the torrential rain that slow moving Isaac dumped on it.
We passed out cleanup kits, tarps, shovels and rakes today to people who's homes either still had water in them, or were being eaten from the inside out due to mold, mildew and rot. Picturesque streets with old trees and hanging moss now had furniture, drywall and garbage piled on the curb.
I know that we did good things here today and gave people a shot of much needed hope. We happened across one of our ERVs (Emeregency Response Vehicles) that was serving meals and providing water. We did our best to comfort those we came in contact with and offered mental health services for those who were feeling by this latest round of hurricane misfortune. When I asked how they were doing, most replied that they were used to it, and that they would work through it the best they could.
As I did yesterday, I will ask that you please consider making a small donation to the Red Cross. Your dollars will help us to continue to provide the type of support you've been reading about.
September 4, 2012
More pushing east today as we have overcome some road closures. We are getting essentials to our kitchens and shelters and getting clean up kits, rakes, shovels, trash bags, coolers and the like out to neighborhoods in need. Damage assessment is on going and we will deploy as needed to those areas deemed critical. Mental health and medical personnel have also been sent in to service those in need and are battling oppressive heat and humidity as well as mosquito born illnesses due to massive amounts of standing water and power outages still being rampant in the southeastern Parrishes.
Think for a minute of the massive undertaking that I am talking about. Thousands of volunteers being deployed into the region. Transportation, food, lodging, and the the logistics to get them to the clients, as well as supplies needed to feed, shelter, and get our clients back on their feet. Then there is educating the public to be ready and able to take care of themselves during a catastrophic event, at least for a short time. I could go on, but I think I've painted a pretty clear picture of the expense incurred for such an operation.
That being said, please consider making a donation to the Red Cross. I myself am a volunteer because I was a recipient of services. Don't think it could never happen to you. Hopefully it won't, but it could be tomorrow. If, while watching the news you find yourself saying "those poor people" or "I can't believe that happened", please find it in your heart to give. Even a small donation goes a long way.
Text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
September 3, 2012
Today was mission critical day at headquarters. Primary functions were to replenish existing shelters and expand our operation into neighborhood deliveries. Trucks were sent out early this morning to reach Parrishes northeast and southeast of Lake Pontchartrain. These people were some of the hardest hit last week and during Katrina, thus reopening the wounds. Trucks were loaded with basic supplies like coolers, shovels, rakes, trash bags, etc. and sent to public gathering places to distribute the supplies.
Most of what you have heard thus far has been about the Red Cross, for obvious reasons, but make no mistake, recovery is about communities coming together to help pick up the pieces and begin anew. The Southern Baptist Men helping to supply meals and providing shower and laundry service is a prime example of the good news that can come out of catastrophe. Neighbor helping neighbor, asking nothing in return but a smile is how lives are rebuilt. The Cruz Rojas Mexicano working side by side with our Red Cross, members from our Hawaiian chapter traveling thousands of miles at a moments notice to be on the ground and help. This is truly what the word COMMUNITY is all about.
September 2, 2012
Today's focus was getting out into neighborhoods we hadn't been able to reach due to road closures from flooding. On run was into Albany, LA to deliver cleanup kits for distribution from a local church. Along the way we could see increasing signs of damage from the winds and flooding. The debris was clustered into small piles on the roads, evidence that it had been floating on the flood covered road. Utility crews were working to restore power to the area, and because of that, several ERVs were following behind us to deliver hot meals and hydration.
Sheltering is a term that I have used that I wanted to discuss. For the victims as well as for the caregivers it is the same. Places are staged within the disaster area, if safe, to provide the basic elements of life: Food, shelter, hydration, and hygiene. Volunteer shelters are staged near distribution points to facilitate the movement of goods to the shelters. Imagine having 50-100 people in the same place sleeping on cots, snoring, and fighting over electrical outlets to charge phones and power medical equipment. Oh yeah, shower(s) if you're lucky, split between those 50-100 people.
I tell you this not to complain but to show you how lucky we are to be able to volunteer. We have flown in from our normal lives to help those who in some cases have lost everything. We can go home, but they have to rebuild. Not just homes, but lives. That's why we are here: To give the hand up and rid them of that feeling of hopelessness. To let them know they aren't alone and give them a starting point. From shelter and food to mental health services, we are going to help on that road to recovery.
September 1, 2012
Heading in this morning we past a fleet of utility vehicles staging to move toward New Orleans and east to Mississippi. This was a reminder of the work we have yet to do getting people's lives back to some semblance of normal.
We loaded ERVs for shelter replenishment today and for distribution in neighborhoods. We are getting as much aid to as many people as we possibly can in the form of meals, snacks, hydration, and comfort packs, but also in the form of first aid, mental health, and damage assessment.
We were on standby today to assemble an additional two crews of shelter staff due to a potential lock breech in St. Tammanay Parrish near Mississippi. The pressure was eased but there was a mandatory evacuation of those who lived between locks one and two.
Tomorrow we've been told to expect longer runs for resupply of shelters. The promise of more rain in the forecast may hamper flood remediation efforts and extend our sheltering operation.
I continue to meet amazing people and am refreshed to have reaffirmed that there is good and selflessness in the world. I met several volunteers battling cancer, determined to make sure we complete our mission here. A group of volunteers from the Cruz Roja Mexicana, The Mexican Red Cross, showed up today. Retired people, young people, even deaf people are all here unified.
Also, my heartfelt gratitude goes to the Lake County Public Library for the more than generous donation they made in my name to the American Red Cross!
August 31, 2012
What a day! After a restless night I woke early and started off for the coffee pot. After breakfast we met for a staff meeting where we talked about the overall plan for today and what role we would play. Establishing distribution points was key to get critical supplies to the established shelters. Our group was split into our assigned specialties and sent to begin our day, bringing our gear as a new team would be coming into Orange today.
My group off-loaded three tractor trailers full of supplies, dividing the contents between ERVs and box trucks. Each vehicle could then be delivered to a destination as a complete unit.
We left in a convoy of four box trucks and headed into Louisiana about 4:00pm. This is my first visit to Louisiana and I am amazed at how beautiful this part of the country is. Driving through sugar cane fields along I-10, we came to a section of highway from Lake Charles to Baton Rouge that is breathtaking. The highway is actually an elevated bridge through miles of majestic swamps lined with moss draped trees. We started seeing some of the effects of Isaac here as there were some downed trees, stranded vehicles and shredded billboards. I expected to see more damage, but this area was northwest of the center of the storm, with most of the flooding occurring to the southeast of the eye with feeder bands of rain coming in from the gulf.
My new friend from Hawaii and I talked about differences in culture, food, and what response was like to local events in Hawaii. I love the way everyone comes together, no matter where they are from with the common heartfelt goal of delivering care and services to those most in need.
More tomorrow beginning in Baton Rouge.
August 30, 2012
Today was travel day. South Bend to Detroit to Houston. We are at an In-Processing center in Orange, TX which is right on the border with Louisiana.
Upon arrival, all of the information is processed for each individual: health info, contact info, and area of specialty. A brief meeting was held tonight, talking about tomorrow's deployment. Of concern was a levee breach in Mississippi that threatens to evacuate another 60,000 people. We also discussed the fact that most of those people we are servicing were involved in hurricane Katrina, and old wounds are being opened mentally.
I will be deploying to Louisiana tomorrow!
And yes, that cot is mine!
Kevin is with PNC bank out of LaPorte, Indiana