Two exciting pieces of news regarding Red Cross bloggers:
1. Our online specialist, Erica Arevalos, has contributed an enlightening article on emergency water supplies to the Portland Water Bureau blog. (Yes, the PWB has a blog. Try saying “water blog” ten times fast!)
2. One of our Disaster Mental Health volunteers, Dr. Tony Farrenkopf, has agreed to be an author on our blog. We look forward to his perspective on Red Cross happenings.
In the meantime, let me go ahead and post something Dr. Farrenkopf wrote recently about his perspective during the recent TOPOFF4 disaster excercise:
TOPOFF 4 at PIR
They came from all parts of Oregon, from Brookings and Coos Bay, many came from Eugene, some from Salem, they came from Seattle and as far as Idaho. From Sunday, October 14, 2007 to Friday, October 19, for six full days, they worked twelve hour shifts and more, some starting up at 2:30 a.m. They sloshed through rain and muddy grass, carrying canisters of enchiladas, pork and beans from the mobile kitchen to the feeding tent, they drove ‘ERV’ feeding vans over unfamiliar roads in Portland’s rush-hour traffic, they washed equipment out in the cold, food servers had spells of sitting and waiting, and that’s when their eyes closed.
They had no time to observe Tuesday morning’s ‘dirty bomb’ drill on the adjacent field at Portland International Raceway, complete with an explosion, fire fighters in radioactive gear, victims with fake blood among debris on the ground, and a virtual plume of radioactive material to displace sixty thousand residents.
All that is gone now. Only a heap of manikin parts, legs and torsos and disheveled clothing remains on the field behind the First Aid tent.
Throughout Friday afternoon these 40 – 50 American Red Cross volunteers were “out-processing,” sitting in clusters by the staffing table, at times forming an impatient line to hurry the process along. For their mental health exit interview, they still had enough
adrenaline pumping to describe their positive experiences of cross-training, learning new skills under less critical circumstances than Hurricane Katrina, meeting new and old friends. Yet, with each hour their energy drained, the week’s sleep deprivation sagged their cheeks and eyelids. The mood remained upbeat and they were glad to return to
loved ones and their pets back home, some with five-hour drives ahead.
Some mental health interventions had more urgency. Such as a crying spell over a personal abandonment and uncertainty how to get back home. Or the team fallout from a departed supervisor, whose brother had died in an accident back home. And the customary complaint about unfair or crude handling by a supervisor. Military veterans shrugged their shoulders, summarized their experience as “just like the military:” crossed wires and confusion, hurry up and wait, who’s in charge and what’s going on? The site manager gave cogent advice, reminiscent of 9/11: creative problem solving in the midst of chaos.