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Blog #2 - We’re going - but where?

September 11, 2005

The same day that my two Sebago Fire Department colleagues and I took the first two Red Cross disaster relief classes at their South Portland offices, we each filled out an application form to join the Disaster Services Human Resources (DSHR) system as Red Cross volunteers. They wanted to know just about everything about us, including what training we had had and any experience with disaster relief operations. We each attached copies of our fire department training records as well, with all the medical, hazardous materials, incident command, etc fire service training we've had.

I had worked as a volunteer many years ago in Michigan on two Red Cross blizzard relief operations and a tornado disaster there, so I put that down. Also back in 2002 I’d worked as a volunteer public information specialist for the huge Missionary Ridge forest fire operation run by the US Forest Service in Durango, Colorado. But I’d never worked on anything the size and scope of the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief operations, and I was eager to learn, no matter how small my contribution might be.

Shots and Medical Records

As part of the application process I had Dr. Dater, my family doctor, complete and fax back a medical form attesting to my health and ability to function as a volunteer. I also spoke with Florence, Dr. Dater’s nurse.

”Florence, I am also going to need some shots before I can be deployed. Can you help me out on a short notice?”

”I’ll try,” she said. “What do you need?”

”All volunteers need Hepatitis A and Tetanus immunizations, to protect them against some of the nasty things they might be exposed to,” I replied. “I had my Tetanus and Diphtheria shot in May, but have never had the Hepatitis. I’ll need the shot in the next day or two,” and explained what I was volunteering for.

”We don’t carry the Hepatitis here, but I’ll make a call and we should have it this afternoon. I recommend that you also get the Hepatitis B immunization as well. The ‘A’ is to protect for water-borne organisms, while the ‘B’ is for blood-borne and body fluids.”

On Friday morning I went up to Bridgton and Florence gave me my two shots. The medical form was completed and faxed back to the Red Cross, and now all I had to do was wait while my application was processed.

While I was waiting, I talked to some veterans of other Red Cross disaster relief efforts, including Carol Brown from Sebago and Mr. and Mrs. Richard Houde from Bridgton. They were very helpful in giving me some idea of what to expect, although they cautioned that when you get on the ground at a disaster you may end up doing any number of different things. It depends on what the needs are, and I should plan on being flexible. It sounded very much to me like the military, and in many ways, the Red Cross is very similar to a large military operation.

I’m accepted!

Fiona Fanning’s e-mail from the Red Cross had welcome news: ”I wanted to let you know that I have approved your membership in the DSHR system and would like to report you as available on the 13th (after you take shelter operations training). You would get a call from me on the 12th to confirm your assignment and would still have to attend the class on Monday night.” She continued “Please confirm that you can commit to this and the three weeks following.”

I confirmed with her my availability. The other two Sebago fire fighters, David Littlefield and Jason Schoolcraft, also got notified and were accepted. All three of us will be flying out on Tuesday, September 13, but we don’t know where nor what we will be doing. Jason expects that he will probably work in Disaster Health Services, since he is a currently registered Emergency Medical Technician. My EMT certification has expired, so that is out for me. David and I will have to wait to find out our assignments, and more importantly, where they plan on sending the three of us.

The Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort is so large that there are now operations in 18 states, so we could be sent most anywhere. We'll find out more on Monday.

Copyright © 2005, Allen Crabtree