Friday, September 12, 2008

Hunkering down for Hurricane Ike

I've been here for a week now. Mostly working in the Louisiana State Operations Center. Very busy, lots of phones going off with all the state agencies here. Lots of different groups in the room. Numerous state agencies including State Police, Environmental Quality, National Weather service, Dept. of Agriculture, Department of Transporation and Development. Department of Social Services, Department of Health and Hospitals. Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. Red Cross. Corps of Engineers. And many that you may not expect. All with a job. Some jobs are obvious, some are not. Because there is a disaster. It is a surprise that everyone can be thrown in a room and work together. Well, ok, there is a learning curve for everyone to work together, but still, 50+ people in a room who have never been in the same room before working together is pretty impressive.

At one point one of the other Red Cross guys with me took a moment to step back to watch the room. He figured there were thirty phones going off at the time. Let's see, what kind of things to I work on. . .

- Calls from mobile kitchens that are running out of fuel

- Shelters that needed supplies, showers, generators

- Requests for data on feeding activities for planners

- Requests for information on state emergency and disaster declarations

State agencies asking 'Can Red Cross do . . .?'

Governor's representatives coming to ask 'How does Red Cross . . .?'
- Big, unsolicited, unexpected donation of food that we had to figure out how to use (or if we could use it)

Lots of big issues. Very different from being one of the people on the ground, talking to people, feeding people, setting up cots, surveying damage, all the other things I've done in Red Cross. But it is not too hard to see how it fits into everything else. Especially when some of the resources that get coordinated here keep other operations from shutting down. Like feeding people who do not have another source of food because the power is out.

But now, Ike is making landfall overnight. Everyone is hunkering down. The place I'm staying has had its power on and off today. And waiting out the storm. So we can go back to work tomorrow.
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