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Blog #3 - Hurry up and Wait!

September 14, 2005

I didn’t venture far from the phone on Monday awaiting the call from the Red Cross with news of our deployment down south for Hurricane Katrina relief. There were lots of calls all day, but most were blueberry customers, “are you still picking blueberries?” and “how do I get to your place?” There were also several from friends and neighbors who wanted to know if I’d gotten the word yet. They were just as disappointed as I was that I didn't know anything more.

Waiting was terrible. I felt like the guy who was all dressed up and no place to go. I’d already paid the bills ahead and picked up travelers checks and got my shots. All the clothes and gear I thought I would need were piled on the dining room table, ready to pack in my bag. I was waiting to see where we were going before I made the final decision on some of the items.

Most importantly, Penny was as reconciled as she could be to letting me go and was preparing herself to cover the blueberry operation while I am gone. We were planning to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks, but will postpone that until I return. I’ve tried to explain to Colby, our official blueberry greeter dog that I will be going but will be coming back.

The town will continue without me very nicely, but I did let the Town Manager and Town Clerk know that I would miss the next Board of Selectmen meeting, and wouldn’t be around to lead the trail-building work party up Douglas Mountain on Saturday. I’d asked the Fire Chief if he could meet with the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA representative for his site visit while I’m gone to see how we are progressing in spending our FY04 Assistance to Firefighters Grant.

Would you be willing…

Finally, on Tuesday morning I received a call from Bruce Peters at the Red Cross in South Portland.

”Are you still willing to go on a deployment?” Bruce asked. What a dumb question I thought!

”Sure,” I said. “Where are you sending me?”

”Not so fast,” he went on. “We need to get your assignment set first. Are you willing to be one of our case workers? You would be interviewing clients at one of the shelters to see what needs they have and get them registered in the system.”

Our instructor Louise Wakefield had taught us about the interview process in our Disaster Health Services class on Friday night. The interviews are usually the first contact that clients have with the Red Cross system, and this is where any health needs are identified and referrals made for assistance. It is also where any missing family members are reported, with hopes that families can be reunited. Red Cross uses a Disaster Registration and Case Record form (Form 901) to record all this vital information and Louise had spent some time showing us how it was completed and then used by a whole range of disaster health services.

I told Bruce that this would be fine with me. “Put me down for that,” I said. “Now, where are we going, and when?”

”All in good time. You’ll be getting another call soon, and I can promise you that you will probably be deploying in the very near future.”

Beyond that, he was very tight-lipped, so I took what he had given me and sat back to wait some more.

In the mean time, I learned that David and Jason had received similar calls from Bruce, and that we were all three of us going to be doing the same thing. “But no guarantees that we’re all going together to the same place,” David said. “We just have to wait and find out.”

The call finally comes!

I had to step out to run an errand about 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, and of course the call came when I was out. Bruce had called “Are you available to come to a briefing at 11:00 Wednesday morning at the Red Cross offices?”

Early Wednesday morning Eric Sawyer, the Southern Maine Red Cross public information officer, sent me an e-mail with a copy of his media advisory announcing ”Ten volunteers to receive briefing for national response.” He went on to say in the press release “The American Red Cross of Southern Maine is pleased to announce that it will be sending ten more volunteers to the south to aid in the recovery efforts of Hurricane Katrina. There will be a briefing of these volunteers…..”

David and I will drive down in a couple of hours and find out what is in store for us. It looks like the waiting is nearly over and hopefully we will be deployed soon. Time will tell.

Copyright © 2005, Allen Crabtree