24-Apr-2007: This page is several years out of date!
I am the Drill Coordinator for the Palo Alto Area chapter of the American Red Cross (PAARC), which means that I get to create disasters! I am also a member of the Disaster Services Committee (the steering committee for the chapter's Disaster Services division) and a First Aid/CPR instructor.
I am a member of the national DSHR system, meaning that I will go out on national disaster assignment whenever I can. Most recently, I was in Alabama and Florida helping with Hurricane Ivan relief efforts. Not surprisingly, my primary involvement (at the moment) is in response technology, although I am also qualified in a number of other aspects. (Yes, I am qualified to drive the Emergency Communications Response Vehicle, pictured above, and, yes, I can install telephones, and, yes, I can set up a satellite dish. Networks and computers go without saying.)
At present, I am also spearheading ARC CITUPS, an effort to help technologically disadvantaged chapters upgrade their information technology.
Disaster Response comprises three phases:
||Taking care of the immediate crisis; putting out the fire,
stopping the bleeding, etc.
Taking care of the immediate needs of the people left standing; food, shelter, clothing, etc.
Helping people get their lives back to normal.
In the United States, Emergency Response is typically handled by professionals (police, paramedics, fire fighters) and/or by highly trained volunteers. Disaster Recovery is handled by the government, through FEMA in large disasters, and state or local agencies in smaller disasters. The middle phase, Disaster Relief, is, by mandate from the United States Congress, the responsibility of the American Red Cross. In other words, the American Red Cross is officially part of the national disaster response infrastructure. Pursuant to this mandate, the American Red Cross responds to 65-70,000 disasters annually, most of which are single family house fires and only a few of which make the national news. (If your house burns in the middle of the night, and you are left standing in the street with your family, in your pajamas, without your wallet, glasses or keys, the Red Cross will be there to help you.)
The American Red Cross is
(And you thought we collected blood and taught lifesaving classes. Well, we do that, too, but Disaster Relief is our core mission.)
Amazing, isn't it, that a country as large and as advanced as the United States depends on a donor-funded volunteer organization for a critical piece of its disaster response infrastructure?