Disaster Diaries Part Five: The faces of the West Virginia floods

American Red Cross volunteers and staff have been working to distribute cleaning supplies, food and water to those affected by the floods. Jim Sheely, a volunteer from Charlotte, N.C., describes his deployment and the Red Cross’ efforts in West Virginia in part three of his disaster diaries:


    Monday, July 5

    Well, this operation officially concluded Saturday, July 3. I’ll be home soon and looking forward to it.

    The long, long Fourth of July weekend has kept George Barron, the Logistics Administrator, and Lance and I here for two days longer than ordinarily.  Everything was closed Sunday and today so we will spend tomorrow morning, Tuesday, delivering a huge load of Pelican cases of DST laptops, cell phones, cables, and the satellite dish to FedEx shipping. Then we have to deliver the Chapter a load of leftover office supplies, forms, brochures, snacks, ice chests, and all the other “stuff” that winds up in headquarters after 2 and a half weeks of operations.  Then, after we return the two trucks, I can “beat feet” to the airport, return my car and hop my flight to Atlanta.

    I have been here 18 days and have not seen a victim of the flooding, a home damaged by floods, or been in any of the affected communities. Other volunteers carried the Red Cross “flag” in all those areas. Those were the faces the clients saw and will remember; those are the volunteers that make or break the Red Cross’ reputation in disasters. But we (volunteers in Logistics) gave the volunteers their offices, shelters, cars, computers, phones, clean-up kits, comfort kits, clipboards, snacks, soap, toilet paper, and everything else they needed and assume will be there when they arrive on the job. Logistics arrives first and, as I can verify, leaves last. I feel like a fraud when I tell people I’ve been in West Virginia helping people who lost homes and property in floods.  But I will come home and gladly preach the gospel of Logistics to the “empathy impaired” and let them know that none of the other activities can get their work done without Logistics doing theirs first. The glamour is missing but not the importance.

    George and I had little to do today except fold tables and chairs so we sat a talked a while.  I got more insights into the ‘bigger picture’ and how he finds and acquires the facilities a relief operation needs.  There have been a lot of changes made at the national level in the last few weeks and we in the “Man Cave” will have a lot to learn and talk about. I look forward to being rid of Disaster Services Technology and Invoice Review, and handing over the Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV) to fellow volunteer Pam Brynarsky. Speaking of ECRVs: The last word I had on 4703, the Manassas truck, is that they found the money and the justification to have it repaired and returned to service. I’ll bet that takes at least a month to accomplish.  I was worried that they’d replace 4703 with our truck, 4715, to have a showpiece for HQ events. I think we may have dodged a bullet!

    See ya’ll when I get back!

    Jim

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