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Archive for August, 2008

We have arrived

It is early morning Saturday the 30th of August. Most of our team has arrived safely in Alexandria, Louisiana. All but our Dart group spent the night in a staff shelter. It’s last use was as a Boyscout camp. I wouldn’t call it a Four Seasons, but it has mattresses, air conditioning and hot water. All of these may seem like great luxuries a few days from now. The Dart team spent a few hours with bad directions, finally gave up and spent the night in a motel. All in a days work on a response.

I have already noticed a big difference from our usual experience. I am always struck by how appreciative people are of our presence as they go through disasters. Yesterday, people on the plane and in the airport were clearly anxious at our presence. If we are here it must be bad.

Scott Graham has already made us proud. As we were driving down the highway, Scott pulled the truck off the the side and backed up. He had spotted a car with a flat tire. Before we new it, Scott was under the car changing the tire and diane, Fran and I were there to give moral support. The young lady Scott assisted was so grateful. She had just returned to her home in Lakeville a few weeks ago, we felt her pain.

It’s time to get to work… more later.

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Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) members Jim McGinnis and Joe Riccardi with the American Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle they are today driving to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to assist in pre-landfall evacuations. (Photo: Anita Salzberg)

Almost three years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, the American Red Cross in Greater New York (ARC/GNY) is activating its “Rapid Response Team” by deploying 47 highly trained disaster services responders to Louisiana. This action is being taken in anticipation of tropical storm Gustav growing to hurricane strength and coming ashore near New Orleans early next week. The team, comprised of volunteers, employees and our partners from FDNY’s Disaster Assistance Response Team, will assist in pre-landfall emergency plans in support of the Southeast Louisiana Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The storm, already responsible for 67 deaths in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, has moved from the Central American coast into the Caribbean, and is sweeping towards the United States. The National Hurricane Center in Miami predicts that it will grow in power as it approaches Louisiana over the weekend. Extensive plans by numerous agencies and organizations in advance preparation of Gustav are underway as residents mark the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

ARC/GNY’s “Rapid Response Team” will be led by CEO Theresa Bischoff and Chief Response Officer Scott Graham. The team will include specialists in operations management, sheltering, mental health, disaster assessment and workforce planning and training.

The American Red Cross has endorsed the “Rapid Response” initiative as a cohesive, efficient, effective means of providing emergency assistance for pre-landfall hurricane evacuations and post-landfall relief efforts. The diverse backgrounds and multi-lingual capabilities of the “Rapid Response Team” members facilitate a response effort that is culturally sensitive to the clients being served.

Additionally, “Rapid Response” Teams have the advantage of being on-call as a unit to deploy together as needed, giving an opportunity to build team cohesion and effectiveness. They also have advance information on the Chapter and community which they are going to support, giving them a greater opportunity to prepare.

“We are excited by our new ‘Response Team’ initiative and proud that so many of our volunteers and employees have stepped up to help the Gulf Coast prepare,” said ARC/GNY CEO Theresa Bischoff. “Their generosity of spirit is truly inspiring.”

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