July 30, 2011 Minot ND RC Journal

I haven’t stayed in touch because: NO time & data connectivity problems, here in Minot ND…..I have difficulty finding wifi signals. So, sometimes I only have phone but no data package services. My new expensive BB is not cooperating (I upgraded just for this deployment). Very busy….most RC have left…just an RN & me in Health Servcices (Client Health), & Staff Wellness (services to fellow red crossers). There are shelter workers here in other “Functions” ie (sheltering, feeding, bulk distribution), etc. Originally we had @ least 1- 2 RNs, & 2 EMTs 24/7 ea shift, covering shelters, at ea service site: service centers, bulk dist, etc. We’ve consolidated shelters. Today, we moved again to the City indoor Tennis Club (3/29). Originally, there were 400 of us RC from all over the country & Canada in the RC Staff Shelter; now we are probably down to 50. Both clients & community people have been respectful. I’ve only met 1 difficult person. I’m fine; most times our safety & that of the clients we serve are well managed; tonight my biggest problem is finding an unflooded route back to our staff shelter. Today has been a 14-1/2 hour shift; I’m on 24 hour call. I am tired to the bone. Terrible rains today; the bridge is closed due to flooding, so I can’t get to the staff shelter. The only other bridge in & out of town collapsed weeks ago. Still on a cot, which I don’t mind,co-ed, originlly with about 400 of us, running arond in our pajamas, hair sticking up in the air, just rolling out of bed. I’ve had a man sleeping in the cot next to me for 2 wks. Too funny. I sometimes look a fright. No cosmetics…..Nope, nothing except a red tube of lipstick (I think I was born with a red tube of lipstick in my hand), & a comb 4 me. Wash & wear hair thanks to a great stylist, Danielle Rodeffer, back in Waynesboro. Yes, we find moments of levity. Today our numbers are small enough that we segregated ourselves into a men’s & women’s side. We have many other agencies living in our shelter now. Wonderful pet rescue groups,(IFAWS, Noah’s Wish), lots of Canadians,Children’s Disaster Services, Southern Baptist Services, Army Corp of Engineers, too many to mention now. We’ve taken over the Minot high sch. I will probably be moving to a FEMA “tent city” sometime next week. HQ is @ the Catholic HS/MS, Bishop Ryan. They are moving to a new site because BR needs the space back. Several schools (7)have been destroyed, & school will be starting late, 9/5. Tons of Catholics & Lutherns here. Very few African Americans; lots of Indians & Swedes. There are 3 major Tribes & according to the locals, they do “not play well in the sand box”. All seem to still feel terribly opprssed by the caucasions. Heat index of 117 one day last wk. We sent @ least 5 residents to the ER via ambulance. Many of my dear RC friends have left, still looking shell shocked from their previous deployment in Joplin. Terrible…..so many children died. There is such a thing as Compassion Fatigue. I never understood the concept until now. I’m taking Aug off & won’t go out again until mid Sept. They have asked if I’d consider signing up for another week. Lots of our RC volunteers are in their mid-late to late 70s. Two of the nurses I worked w/ were 77 & 80! Finally I’ve got a car. Can you believe it…I’m driving a KIA Soul, lime green, & no license plates! I want to know where the cavies. L rats are. We get tired & grumpy, then find something funny….then laugh until we have tears running down or cheeks. I’ve put in 1- 1/2 days of light duty after I pulled, of all things, a groin muscle. Haven’t done that since my 5 year old brother, Ricky, when I was 10, pushed me down the stairs. I landed @ the bottom dof the stairs doing the splits. At least I missed the laundry basket @ the bottom. You never forget that type of pain. Meds, ice packs, & naproxen saved the day. I’m walking fine now, but hobbled around for a few days with a loaner cane. Carlos, a wonderful volunteer, gave me his cane, & yes, we have a wonderful Staff Wellness nurse, Jutta, who took good care of me. Coming home dates have moved each day…probably won’t be home until the 5th, 6th, or 7th. Moving target, but I’m trying to fly home to C’ville & not cause Jerry to pick me up in Richmond @ midnight as originally planned. My EMT instructor Bunny Hearn, would be so proud of some of my assessments….I really learned a lot, retaking classes all winter/spring. I am doing REALLY well. 1st 2 weeks had many UGH moments…now I’ve found my stride. Now it’s fun. I have a great boss, a retired Navy nurse. I’ve served w/ many of the volunteers before, & we give a squeal of delight when we realize we get to serve together again. The biggest issue is that w/ so many disasters this season, some volunteers have gone from one tragety to another, w/ no real breaks….Springfield, Birmingham, Joplin, etc. I don’t have the emtional & physical reserves to do that. I get too tired & my brain starts to burp after 21 days. I’ve learned, movement from 1 deployment after another depleats my body, soul, & brain. Plus, too much trauma back to back is not good for my spirit. Never enough time to meditate; I miss my ZEN Garden, my husband, & the cats. My kids worry for me as if they were the parent. I try not to complain about our living conditions as my mother was a Red Cross volunteer, in Europe, under General Omar Bradley’s Army division during WW ll. They sometimes had to put up their own tents & dig their latrines when they were separated from their troops. Opps. She won a medal for volunteering to take supplies to the troops over a road that was bombed by the Germans. She figured out their bombing times, drove like a bat out of hell, & got their supplies to them. She slept in a barn during a Mustard Gas attack. I wear her pins every day on deployment. This disjointed note was my effort to get some recent news out, while trying to stay awake putting pen to paper.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Minot ND July 2011Red Cross

LIONS, TIGERS, & Tornadoes, Oh my! 7/15/11. Day four, & our 1st BIG scare arrived at 3 am this morning, with a loud call for “we have an emergency, all available Mass Care & Health Services are needed immediately”; 400 of us were nestling under the covers. In our co-ed dorm on the HS gym floor, we struggled in pitch dark to realize that we were not sharing an odd collective dream, as we heard panicked continued calls for immediate assistance with a wind storm, that affected one of our client shelters, which is referred to as Tent City, the Maysa Shelter, where most clients live in tents (not a red cross decision, we inherited this shelter), & a few RVs; many are financially strapped for cash, under insured, non insured, or on benefit programs. MAYSA is my current work assignment, where I represent Health Services as an EMT. I utilize a lot of my social work skills.I enjoy working with our clients, some of whom had little before the flood, & now have nothing. Many clients lost their homes, with few having flood insurance. Some still have water in their homes after 2 months. A few of our clients were homeless prior to the flood & there are few available housing resources. With the call for assistance, 200 of us, with adrenalin rushing through our systems, grabbed a cup of coffee, & then we were told to “stand down”, as a tornado had affected the shelter & the scene was not determined to be safe for our response. Actually, the area did sustain torrential rains and straight line winds, however with no tornado; some tents did collapse, some were destroyed, and a number of families with children, were “shaken up”, as their tents fell upon them. All is well today. Clean Up kits were obtained to manage the mess. Trailers & tents were soaked with water & debris. There were no physical injuries. It was a very scarey event, clients, in the dark, struggled out of their tents, in a true downpour, to get to the main bldg where some clients were living inside. There are a lot of tired clients resting this afternoon. We have a lot of client case workers on this DR, who are trying to work up eveyone within a few weeks so that the event can be returned to the local Chapter for management. FEMA has retrofitted 300 trailers to withstand temps to 30 below, w/ 200 additional trailers going through this cold weather rehab. Plans change frequently. Decisions made @ 5 PM, can complely change by 8 PM. Our client base is primarily caucasian, hispanic, & indian. There are 3 indian tribes nearby. We are 30 miles from the Canadian border. Client Case Workers, have been a true God Send. In fact, I’m sitting next to Sara, from North Georgia, & we are presently working on a very difficult case collaboratively. Staff showers & a laundry truck arrived today from the Southern Baptists, & we gals are delighted. Not enough time to Journal due to client needs. I’m working with retired psychiatrist, John G, MD, from Charlottesville (my Chapter) Central Virginia, Mountain Region; I have so enjoyed working with him. Our wonderful Staff Wellness RN, Jutta, is also from our Chapter. I have a great picture of Dr. G, with with Mickey Mouse, the symbol for children’s comfort, given out by our DMH mental health volunteers to children in crisis. Sometimes the most difficult of clients are much easier to work with than tired, mentally exhausted volunteers. Many red crossers have come here directly from other deployments, ie, Birmingham, Alabama, Springfield, Mass. & Joplin. Great sadness is expressed as they tell their stories. Some things we can only share within the safety of our ARC colleagues, as we maintain confidentiality, and we know the weariness and trauma of response. As usual, I am news deprived. I’ve not read a newspaper or watched news on TV for days. I am well. I’m making many new friends. I love this world of work, & the opportunities given to me to serve fellow Americans, through the ARC. God bless the people of Minot, on their long road to recovery. They are a resilient, proudly independent people.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hurricane Floyd, 1999 – Mental Health Disaster Response





Pat Higgins, Christy Cacciapaglia, Allison Bell, and I, all social workers, represented the GO TEAM from WSH, following significant flooding in eastern Virginia, caused by Hurricane Floyd. We left for Franklin City on Thursday 9/24/99. We were full of excitement, & a little trepidation, concerning our knowledge, skills, and abilities, to provide mental health, disaster response services. We knew that we had to be “politically correct” & deferential to community nuances and need. Our assignment called for us to be linked with the Western Tidewater CSB. The catchment area for the CSB was Southampton Co., including the cities of Suffolk and Franklin. (The Franklin office of the CSB, we later learned, had been destroyed, with floodwaters reaching 10 feet in their building.) We were acutely aware of our inexperience. I had triaged response efforts for the Team, in the Shenandoah Valley, following the floods of 1997. Most of my training had been experiential, as a flood victim, in 1985. I had assisted in disaster recovery situations for family and friends for nearly 20 years, as a volunteer, as had Allison & Pat. With mental health disaster response, as new to our parent agency, DMHMRSA, as it was to us, we felt a little insecure. With the hospital’s petty cash in our pockets, & a truck full of disaster gear and supplies, we were on our way in the hospital’s largest 4-wheel drive vehicle, “Big Blue”. We later learned that only one of our team members had legs long enough to manage the clutch; Pat Higgins became our driver for the week.

  •    Lesson learned: make sure that the TEAM has an adequate understanding of the agency they are to LINK with, in addition to the having knowledge in advance of the demographics, geographic boundaries & extent of disaster on both the agency and the catchment
  •     Lesson learned: IN ADVANCE make sure that all equipment issued meets the needs of the user 

“We were told we couldn’t get there from here, but we went anyway”. Finding a route to Franklin, that was not washed out, or closed due to high water, was a dilemma. In Virginia, 130 secondary roads were closed, in addition to portions of four Interstate Highways. After numerous phone calls to the State Police and VDOT, our WSH Logistics Officer, Alan Cale, was able to develop travel route plans. The long first day started at 10:30 AM, with our departure, and by 3:15 PM, our truck “bit the dust” at the VDOT office in Suffolk, in front of the gas pumps. (A normal 3-hr. commute, by the end of the day, after circumnavigating closed roads and bridges, took us 8 hours.) In an hour, we were back on the road after the VDOT staff so quickly replaced the starter STAT. Their gracious overtures did not stop there; we received an invitation to stay in one of the VDOT staff member’s homes while we were on duty, if we could not find adequate shelter in Franklin.

We arrived, after dark, to find a town that appeared to be under siege. Approaching the downtown business district, every corner was cordoned off by State Police or National Guard. Fire trucks, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles, representing HAZMAT, FEMA, EPA, VDOT, city police, county sheriff, Salvation Army, Red Cross, lined the streets on the periphery of the area. 28 agencies were represented. Although we were exhausted by the end of the day, we were eager to get a sense of the area & the National Guard allowed us to go beyond the barricades, into the perimeter surrounding the disaster area. The city of Franklin downtown area, a business district, & residential area, of 180 homes and 156 businesses, had been under water for 15 days. The water was finally receding. We were informed, that it was thought by the next day, Friday; officials would complete an assessment as to when the town would be safe for re-entry, for civilians & business owners.

The danger of contamination, not only from raw sewage, but also from the chemicals that poured into the floodwaters, from a fuel company and the Union Camp factory, a large paper mill, caused the greatest concern. Large fuel silo’s had become detached from their moorings, and were floating in the area, in addition to 360 fifty-five gallon drums, of unknown chemicals. A tractor-trailer of gasoline had turned over on its side. Butane & Propane fuel containers, the smallest for gas grills & others larger for home heating were occasionally buzzing around in the water, as their nozzles came loose. The potential for fire was enormous. Many homes on the periphery had been evacuated for over two weeks, as a precaution in case a fuel tank blew up or the fuel-laden waters caught on fire. The restricted area consisted of not only the 150 homes and 186 businesses damaged by the floodwaters, but hundreds of others, which had been without electricity for over two weeks. Out of all of these, only one business owner had flood insurance, the ACE Hardware store.

The harsh odor of petrochemicals filled the air causing our eyes to tear. We worried that prolonged exposure could cause our eyes & nose to become severely irritated. Many homes directly across the street from the damaged areas were also vacant, as they had been without running water and electricity for two weeks. The floodwaters displaced many more people than only those with water damage. After our jaunt in the restricted zone, the State Police provided escort for us to the Incident Command/EOC Center, to “sign in” and register our availability. I was extremely impressed with the Incident Command model implemented by the Fire Chief. At the Hunterdale Fire Department/EOC, we learned that we should not have been allowed into the cordoned off area. HAZMAT passes would be given later to those allowed to enter the area. Home & business owners, disaster response workers, & other state and local officials could enter only after the EPA & Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality gave the “OK”.

  •     Lesson learned: make sure the area is approved before “stepping in”.

We then attempted to find lodging for the week, not an easy task. Flood victims and the response agencies, already in the area, occupied many rooms. The entire telephone system was down and rooms that had been reserved, before the flood, could not be confirmed, or cancelled. We finally found a room at the Comfort Inn, but there was no assurance we would have a room the next day. We took the last room, and for the first three days, had to repack the truck, as we did not know which room we would be in from night to night.

è    Lesson learned: Anticipate that communication systems may not be operable. Bring reliable, lightweight cell telephone and walkie-talkie systems.

  •    Lesson learned: Bring a Letter of Reference to facilitate direct billing for room accommodations
  •     Lesson learned: Assign a Logistics Officer, to arrange for transportation, housing, and to acquire demographics of the pre & post-disaster community. Find out about comfort services available to the disaster response workers; i.e., food operations, restaurants providing meals to disaster responder state employees, medical attention, etc.)
  •     Lesson Learned: Contact other state agencies with experience in disaster response. The Virginia Dept. of Health has a protocol for setting-up lodging/food systems & had established an account with Wal-Mart, for responder incidentals. They also coordinate medical assistance for disaster workers, etc. “Check in” with the VDH, Virginia Health Dept., Office of Emergency Medical Services Coordination Team, so that they are aware of the DMHMRSA team’s presence & location.

We arrived in Franklin after-dark, the first day, due to vehicle trouble with “Big Blue”, and we did not get to the clinic in Suffolk. I called the CSB clinic director, to ask if he could meet with us the next day in Franklin. We did not get our formal assignments until the third day; consequently, we acclimated ourselves to the community, the town’s geography, and the location of relocated city services. Much of the City’s infrastructure, agencies & offices, were flood victims; the City building itself, city council, mayor’s office, chamber of commerce, police, fire, rescue squad, telephone company, courts, jail, probation offices, health department, social services, post office, both funeral homes, etc. All these had been relocated “on dry land”. We were struck by the lack of coordination between the flood response agencies, complicated by the lack of an operable telephone system. Many flood victims had lost not only their housing, but also their vehicles. Consequently, victims had difficulty finding relocated agencies, and services, without available transportation and communication.

  •     Lesson Learned: Ask central office or the facility, to consider arranging for the federal government’s GERT program. This is an exclusive emergency telephone system (three bandwidths reserved) for agencies on the federal, state, and local level, to facilitate communications during disaster/emergency situations.

 We introduced ourselves to the Franklin office of the CSB, not realizing until later that day, that the clinic personnel were disaster victims themselves. We learned how helpful our disaster vests were for identifying who we were. However, their design was a point of contention, for most of our Team members. Our blue vests allowed us to get in and out of the disaster area, & lent credibility to our presence. However, one young Franklin teenager, the first evening we arrived, said we looked like Wal-Mart employees, which were all my Team members needed to hear, to confirm their dislike for the vest. Although the design was not appreciated, the vests allowed civilians to approach us with their concerns and needs. The vests gave credibility to our involvement in their community’s recovery. Our first morning in Franklin, a flood victim, and her supervisor approached us at breakfast. Two employees had “lost everything” in the flood. The company’s regional manager would not adjust their schedules, to facilitate their getting to agencies, to seek disaster relief services. Our first self-assignment was to the Salvation Army, to obtain food baskets for both, and clothes and hygiene supplies, for the male employee, who swam out of his home with only the clothes he was wearing. After we brought them the food, etc., we arranged for services for a man who was displaced from his apartment. His care provider approached Allison and Christy, with a request for intervention, while we were at the Salvation Army. This elderly, frail, flood-victim, was relocated to a room w/o heat, was on oxygen, & he was expected to have surgery in a week. Allison, a RN, arranged for a nurse at the Red Cross, to facilitate his move to a more appropriate heated setting & provide follow-up. We then assisted a diabetic Veteran, who had a major mental illness, and was w/o insulin, special diet, or psychiatric medications. He had lived in an apartment. He swam out of his apartment with only the clothes on his back. For two weeks, he had been without consistent shelter, nor on any medications. In addition to being traumatized as a victim, he’d begun to decompensate in respect to his major mental illness, and was “kicked out” of a couple of shelters, as he became more agitated, hostile and menacing. Allison, Christy, and Pat, arranged for a special, dietary food voucher, (which he later refused) and we linked him with a few relief agencies, to help him get back on track. Mid afternoon, a representative from the CSB/Mental Health Center met us. I was to be placed at the EOC/Incident Command Center, at the Hunterdale Fire Department, due to my background in critical incident stress management as a debriefer. The others were sent to distant “counseling rooms”, at the community college, and an industrial park, Cresstale.

The first few days we constantly “journaled” our experiences and I kept lists of all the things that we knew would assist us, the next time the team was deployed. We spent a few hours every evening, on our return to our room, processing the events of the day. I was the designated Scribe, a position that allowed me, when my endurance was compromised, to write the journal experience, complete FEMA forms, attempted to contact our home agency and central office, and family members, via cell phone. The third day, for me, was exciting, and helpful throughout our stay, as I was assigned to the Incident Command Center. There I met with City officials, and the First Responder community, learning the roles played on the federal, state, and local level. In disaster situations, many communities have a designated Incident Command Center. The young, proficient but very exhausted, Incident Command Chief, seemed relieved to meet with me, as he had a number of dilemmas, with local, very tired, & weary personnel. The First Responder community, & local government employees, had been working 18-hour days, since the floodwaters rose 2 weeks before. They were tired; some flood victims themselves, tempers flaring, and emotions were “running high”. Arguments were beginning to develop, as people had less physical energy, or emotional reserves available. He asked for suggestions, on how to manage inter-agency conflicts, and the myriad of turf issues, between the many agencies represented, at the Incident Command Center. Periodically, though out the next week, he would seek me out, and ask for coaching and guidance, in managing difficult personnel situations. Establishing relationships with the Franklin City, and Southampton County, First Responder community paid back repeatedly, as we needed their help, assistance, and transportation in the days to come. In this setting, I primarily provided critical incident defusings, in small groups or one-on-one, consultation, & offered to assist in any way that I could be utilized. I met with angry business owners, handed out HAZMAT authorizations, provided Information & Referral, and linked people with relocated agencies, etc. Unfortunately, Pat, Allison, and Christy were stuck for 8 hours in far-away places, where no one came for “counseling assistance”, on their first day of formal assignment. (One of the first tenets of disaster work is to go where the people are; victims do not take the time to seek out mental health services).

At 4 PM on Saturday, FEMA personnel came to the EOC Center, and said that they would be in Franklin through Thanksgiving, due to the level of destruction. Much of the damage was attributed to not only content damage; buildings and their contents were saturated with petrochemicals, as they had been soaking in the water for 15 days; many buildings were structurally unsound. Some homes were too unsafe to be entered. Owners would be given the sad news that they could not enter, not even to retrieve a few treasured, family possessions. After the two weeks underwater, floors, and ceilings had caved in, and some homes were visibly sitting on an angle, tilted to the side. The next day, Sunday, the Team returned to the “far away” counseling sites, which they found, was locked for the weekend, and unavailable. A janitor let Allison into the building, to retrieve her materials. I called the clinic representative, and said that I wanted to renegotiate for the Team their assignments; requests for renegotiations of assignment I repeated the entire stay. Inactivity would quickly demoralize, and place undue stress on, the Team members.

Fortunately, the EOC/Command Center paged us early Sunday morning, requesting that we start providing one-on-one counseling services for disaster victims. The home and business owners had been allowed, after 3 weeks, under police escort, in-groups of five cars at a time, into the flood zone. At the re-entry point, the decontamination site, many of these disaster victims were clearly devastated after their return to their home or business. Time and time again, we heard the phrase said, through sobbing voices, “I never knew that it would be this bad”. Business and homeowner gave the police a list of 10 items they wanted to salvage. Sanitation, and public safety, was major concerns. The EPA, and the Commonwealth’s Environmental Quality and Health Departments, worried about the risks of exposure, from contaminated belongs. Additionally, the deadly Nile virus, encephalitis, was thought to be a real possibility from mosquito bites. Flood victims then had to re-enter to community after having their vehicles, items, and boots decontaminated.

The International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) representatives also found us riding through town in “Big Blue” on our way to the EOC, just as we were being paged by the EOC. ICISF followed us to the Command Center, honking their car horn, requesting our involvement. We later felt that the credibility we earned with the ICISM representatives & my presence the day before at the EOC Center, made considerable impact with the CSB on our ability to fit into the clinic’s flood response system.

I continued my assignment early Sunday at the Incident Command/EOC Center. The EOC Center was in a large empty fire station. Areas were portioned off to various Incident Command entities; National Guard, Forestry Service, Coast Guard, City/MIS operations, Army Corp of Engineers, FEMA, Dept. of Environmental Quality, EPA, Southampton Sheriff’s Dept., City Police, etc. The City Government had representatives from their various divisions; elected officials, Public Safety, Public Health, Utilities, Building Inspection, City Registrar, the Public Information Officer, resource procurement, mental health (me), finance personnel & support staff. Two large makeshift rooms were setup to give privacy to the Logistics & Command divisions. National Guard personnel were stationed outside of each of these areas to assure safety and order. A local, First Responder official, asked me to meet with a City employee. Another public official asked if I would intervene with “managing” someone who was clearly overtaxed and with emotional exhaustion, was not making sound decisions. This manager’s behavior was causing problems for numerous other people, who were threatening to mutiny, if this employee wasn’t politely counseled about their destructive behavior, their need for rest and how the behavior was causing major problems for others. Two other first responders, who were making unreasonable demands, which was out of character, and reflective of their stress levels, needed to be managed

A very angry, loud, and tearful, business owner came to the Center, demanding immediate attention, when there was not a staff available to answer their specific question. The owner was irate, and had gone from loudly and assertively questioning policy decisions, to potentially aggressive. I intervened, while talking about being a former flood victim myself, as a home and business owner, and was able to “connect” through mutual experience. The volatile situation calmed down, & the business owner would wave and talk to me periodically, when we ran into each other for the rest of the week. The rest of the Team went to the re-entry point, a place where they established our base operations for the rest of the trip. Later that day, I joined them at “the corner”, and a police Sergeant, took us on a riding tour of the downtown area, so that we would have a sense of what the business owners were seeing. We commandeered a decontaminated, flood-salvaged table and two chairs, and with the tailgate of “Big Blue”, had a makeshift office in operation. We stationed ourselves across the street from the Salvation Army food truck, a smart move in hindsight, which paid off, time after time. Both citizens and First Responders came to the corner, to rejuvenate their stomachs and their psyche. This re-entry corner was referred to by the First Responder community as, “where the mental health gals are”. As we earned the trust and respect of the First Responder community, and other state and federal agencies, civilian’s in acute distress, were either physically brought to our corner, or referrals were given to us. Some of these referrals we followed up on in person, or, we referred to another formal agency in Franklin. Allison and Christy went out on a referral for stray animal retrieval. They not only assisted the woman, who rescued animal flood victims, (20 stray cats and 14 dogs) with cat and dog food supplies, but on one occasion helped the Dog Warden catch the dogs which had gotten loose from this woman’s fenced-in yard. Allison and Christy delivered 20 lbs. of cat food, in addition to accepting a donation for additional animal supplies, from one of the ICISF staff, a former police officer, which had a great affinity for animals. Occasionally, First Responder management would come to our area, and hide behind “Big Blue” to express their exhausted angst. One official told me, after we allowed him to vent his ire in private, that the process of talking with us, assisted him in managing his anger, and kept him from “punching a prominent employee in the face”. Our availability to the agency, and civilian population, in a confidential and supportive environment, seemed to be one of the most productive services we could provide.

On Monday, we first went to the Franklin Mental Health Center, to reintroduce ourselves and I apologized for not being attentive to their own needs as disaster victims. Their clinic was one of the worst damaged businesses. The abrupt reception I thought I had received from the clinic staff initially, and from a few other human service agency personnel, I later realized, was a reflection of their stress and the affect of the disaster related stress.

Pat and I arranged to provide, a few days later, a debriefing for a group of people.

  •     Lesson learned: First impressions in disaster situations are often not at all accurate. People are responding to a traumatic and abnormal situation. We experienced this occurrence on many occasions during our 8-day stay


We learned a lot about Team composition, and cohesion, throughout our trip, and commented to each other on this frequently. We all assumed unique roles: Pat, chief clinician & driver; I the Team Captain, Scribe, & CISM manager; Allison, registered nurse/social worker, and Christy, social work case manager. The need for complementary Team member personalities, whenever possible, we found was critical for living in close quarters, with long hours, & little privacy. Members need to be independent, assertive, and know intuitively, when to “step back”. In addition, they need to know when to prompt another member to take a break, w/o being overbearing, intrusive, or smothering. Team members must recognize their physical and emotional limits. Team members need to be accepting of structure and limit setting, when they become too taxed. We were supportive of each other’s needs, and “bent over backwards” to get along well, even when we were tired and grumpy. Our Team is primarily female; members need to be able to tolerate working in a primarily male dominated First Responder culture, and is willing to set limits when inappropriately approached. The ability to well represent DMHMRSA, & the facility, being politically correct, even when we did not feel like doing so, was very important. Additionally, Team members need to be willing to step into the sidelines, and take a non-active role occasionally, when their endurance both physically and emotionally, is compromised. 

  •     Lesson Learned: Team members must be mature enough to know their limits, and willing to accept guidance from other Team members, when they are too taxed emotionally or physically. A squeamish personality would have great difficulty living without the “creature comforts”; unsanitary bathroom facilities, a lack of bathroom facilities, no running water, with bugs, snakes, smells, and sights that are very disturbing.

An entry from my Log, 9/27, reflects working conditions, stress levels, and how these affected us in our day-to-day work. ”Our brains are confused. It is so easy to misplace items. Tasks are difficult to perform when they require too much organization. We are having difficulty remembering names, and telephone numbers. We have found ourselves forgetting “the rest of the story” in mid-sentence, and we have been getting our words mixed up, using one Goldwinism, or Spoonerism after another. These are chaotic times with poor communication. Cell telephones are hard to use because the calls will not go through. Sometimes we must dial 10 to 15 times before we can get a number to connect. Clean water is limited, and we drink a couple of gallons of cold bottled water each day. Teams need to have a defined Team Leader. Democracy does not always work during high stress activity, with long hours and very little privacy. A bashful bladder could not survive this often un-serviced porta potty environment”.

“Allison and Christy found a man sobbing in his front yard. He was in his early 50’s and disabled. He could not lift more than 10 lbs. His wife was ill with cancer. He had just returned to his apartment for the first time. He had no insurance and they lost everything they owned. His landlord notified him that he must salvage his few possessions that day, and he had no one to help him. He’d recently bought his first new car, “he’s wanted to buy a new car all his life”, and it was destroyed. The Team found two young Mormon men who were glad to have a “family to adopt”. They also called a community volunteer, at the EOC Center, and requested that she find a church group, to “adopt” the family, in their recovery and relocation efforts. They provided mental health and situational counseling, assessment, Information and Referral, and brokered for services. Pat and Allison, on the Southampton Sheriff’s request, under deputy escort, went to Kingsdale, a low income community of approximately 30 homes, most of which were uninhabitable, none were insured, and all contents were destroyed. They went from door-to-door, from yard-to-yard, offering support, I & R, assessment of emotional needs, helped to prioritize tasks & handed out assistance packets on “how to start over”.   Frequently we found that a “shoulder to cry on”, was as helpful as any other service. We went to the YMCA to find a list of people willing to do laundry for flood victims. Allison told the Kingsdale residents where she would have the information posted for them the next day. The Kingsdale community was a small, low economically based, totally uninsured, rural neighborhood. Homes were all on one floor, single-family dwellings, and the water was to the top of the ceilings. Every home was condemned. The Sheriff requested that, under police escort, we provide a presence, an emotionally available cushion, as the homeowners were led back for the first time by the authorities, and saw the total destruction of their homes and then to receive the bleak news, that they could never return.”

On the 28th, Pat and Christy, again on the Sheriff Frances’ request, went to Dockside, a small middle-class community, down on the North Carolina border. The Great Dismal Swamp and the Nottoway and Blackwater rivers surround it. It had a well-known restaurant; the “Dockside”, four trailer homes, and 16 single dwelling homes, all located on canals. All the homes & the restaurant, except for three recently built homes on stilts, were under water. To give the reader an appreciation for the depth of the water, a park bench, was balanced on top of a second floor window air conditioner. Dockside reopened the restaurant and a few homeowners returned in January 2000.

On Wednesday the 29th, we returned to the Franklin Mental Health Center, to escort the staff for the first time, to their clinic, which by then had been flooded three weeks before. We first prepared them, gently, for what they would find. I was trying to present such a tough exterior, yet I felt like emotional jelly inside. The only time I found our response effort to be almost too overwhelming, was three days before. I found myself standing in front of their clinic, in a neighborhood completely deserted. It was one of the worst flooded buildings, being fairly close to the river. Its ceiling had caved in; bright pink insulation was hanging down, front windows were broken out, etc. Watermarks were 10 feet high. Some how, I viewed their center more personally than the rest of the community. Here were the offices of fellow mental health comrades. I was unprepared for how I personalized the experience and was flooded with such very sad feelings I had pushed these feelings aside, which I thought I had conquered as a flood victim myself 14 years before. The Shenandoah Valley floods of ‘85 affected my home. I was immersed, & unexpectedly overwhelmed, by such sad feelings, as if my home had been destroyed only yesterday. Fortunately these were brief emotional experiences, but so significant, in reminding me of how we can revisit feelings from a former trauma, even years later, when working under similar stressful situations. In all my years subsequently, as a volunteer in flood relief efforts, I had never experienced this. My emotional grounding had been compromised, by days of high stress and physical exhaustion.

With a caravan of vehicles, we drove into their city. It was the first time that any of them had been into the downtown area. I could hear quiet sobbing in the background of “Big Blue”, as we drove down the hill, getting closer and closer to their site. I am partially from the Irish culture and I was struck with how the sobbing reminded me of the initial soft keening of a banshee’s wailing, another odd personal response, to the situation. Again, trying to be of emotional support to these women, and attempting to appear oh so stoic, I was again reminded of how this prolonged emotional event was affecting me. Pat’s creative quick use of a flashlight, in lieu of a hammer, helped us gain entrance, as the doors were swollen shut, warped, and would not open. We climbed through a window. Pat’s strong ti-bo kick helped to open uncooperative office doors. The stench of decay, sewage and river muck was awful, as portions of offices still had standing water in them. Oddly, by this time, the Team members were impervious to the petrochemical smells. We would become use to the odor, and truly no longer noticed it. Wet and slimy ceiling insulation was hanging down on our heads, & we walked and climbed over a number of large, slimy, obstacles. We were a sight from a war zone; masks on our faces, boots, long pants, and thick “industrial strength” rubber gloves, to prevent contamination. Armed with flashlights, we peered into offices, to assist the Western Tidewater staff, (by now we were feeling as if they were our close friends) in salvaging their few personal items. We would occasionally hear a cry of joy, as one staff member after another, found something important. These were items that they thought were lost forever; a treasured pin from someone’s dad, brought home from Vietnam, a parent’s Last Will and Testament & Power of Attorney papers, placed high on a closet shelf, As they left their flooding offices, Wed., three weeks before, they had thought that the water, “could never get that high”. Special souvenirs from clients and staff were reclaimed. The physician’s and clinic’s appointment books, pages stuck together with gunk and goo (some of which may be salvaged); the office manager’s California Raisin collection, etc. For some it was to find important family pictures, and personal mementos; the nurses only remaining picture of her grandfather, placed high on a bulletin board, a child’s school picture, a laminated poem from a client with special meaning, etc. While at the clinic, we received a Page from the facility. The Tarboro dam had broken, and a social work friend was worried for our safety.

On the eighth day, we headed back to the hospital, having such mixed feelings as we returned home. The transition from disaster to the “real world” was difficult. We had illogical, but very real feelings, of the unreality of the every day world. It was a disconcerted, odd sense, of a world going on, as if nothing had happened, & we were leaving so much misery behind. I felt angry. We all felt “discombobulated”, a phrase we used often in the preceding week, to explain our feelings. It was ironic, that by the time, we felt as if we knew our way around the city, and finally found our niche in the recovery process; it was time to leave. We left with some sadness, as we were not there to assist, as the remaining homeowners were returning to their houses for the first time. We read a nice article in the local paper the morning we left, mentioning our noticeable presence in the flood area. We smiled. The city’s downtown area, which I believe will recover eventually, will change. The complexion of the city, a part of its history, will be changed forever. Many of the homes will be torn down. Zoning will take place to prohibit rebuilding. Many people will remain displaced without the financial where with all to restart, except though entitlement programs, if they were even eligible. In business districts that have experienced catastrophic damage, of the businesses to reopen, 50 to 70% fail nationally.

It was an exhausting endeavor, but oddly enough, one of the most enjoyable lifetime experiences for me, and I feel the rest of the Team echoes this. I will feel closer to the Team, these women, and a bond that I think will be lifetime lasting. We had odd occurrences throughout the week; the Major at the Salvation Army was from the Waynesboro office; the state trooper at our corner, was stationed in Staunton, in the building at the top of our hospital driveway. Allison met her grandmother’s family, the Beals. Pat believes in synchronicity, and we felt it was in place throughout our trip.

What goes unreported, without the fanfare & nice newspaper articles is the story behind the tremendous effort, by so many people within the facility, which enabled our Team to be deployed. The Admission Office staff, of all disciplines, took such pride in obtaining all the items needed for supplies, and finishing without enough time, the many tasks to be completed, before we could “go on the road”. Three of the staff are GO TEAM members, and probably felt a little sad to be “left behind”. They remained in the Triage Center & Logistics Office, once we were in Franklin, and they worried if we did not report in on a daily basis. They hosted a grand “Welcome Back” breakfast, on our return to work. Staff from throughout the hospital, would call the Admission Office, to get tidbits of stories on our escapades. My Office Manager, Alan Cale, said that they were so proud of us, but worried for us “as if we were their children”. Our support from the hospital administration was so strong, that I was surprised. I knew that the response to Franklin was important, to both the Team members and me. However, I did not expect the total and immediate outpouring of support, from our Administration, which served as leverage and facilitated other departments to offer assistance. At first, I perceived what I thought was resistance to filling all of my needs for equipment and supplies, STAT, to deploy the Team. We had 3 days to prepare. By the third day, there was almost a competitive air between departments to see who could be of the most assistance.

Although we were part of the external flood response effort, we could not have safely completed our work, without the tremendous support of the Franklin City infrastructure and Sheriff Frances, and the Southampton Co. Sheriff’s Dept. Many other city and county agencies, time and time again, gave us supplies, secure escort into neighborhoods, transportation from one point to another, staff support, and loans of equipment. The young Franklin City Fire Chief, Dan Eggleston, took me under-wing, to acclimate me to the city. He explained nuances and roles, of the many agencies, and the consequent territorial issues, and how I could obtain what the Team and I needed, and from which agency. I was amazed, that as exhausted, as he must have been, he always found time to meet with me if I had questions. The wife of the Captain of Police, Sandy Edwards, who manned the Incident Command Center Information booth, for weeks on end, spent 2 days with me, introducing me to the city. She explained the City’s infrastructure, and never seemed put out, when I asked her the same questions, repeatedly, on where agencies were relocated and who could help me with what service. She gave me referrals concerning personnel who might need a little TLC, and a shoulder to cry on, or vent to. Additionally, she supervised and assigned tasks to, the countless Franklin teenagers and children, who came out in droves, to be of assistance. True heroes of the response effort, I believe, were these children, many of whom had families, who had lost homes and businesses. I have said ever since the Floyd floods, when I hear adults complain about the youth of today, that all they needed was a little time, to hear me talk, about the children of Franklin.

The Chief of Police, Bobby Eubanks, constantly asked me if we were getting the additional provisions that we needed, and could he or his department be of assistance. Here was a man, whose city and police department, had been virtually destroyed. Years of records and files lost, vehicles and equipment destroyed, etc., and yet, he was asking me, how he or his department could be of assistance. Walter Joyner, the Police Department Lieutenant, became our Team security officer. He drove us in and out of the flood area, provided personal escort into town on numerous occasions, and gave us a great cell phone, when ours went on the blink. He seemed to always be attentive to our safety, and equipment needs, and frequently during each day, would check in with us, to see if we were OK. Gretchen Scislowicz, helped me out when I got stranded late at night, even when she was probably too exhausted to be escorting me around town. The Tidewater Community Service Board staff, from the clinic director, Joe Scislowicz, to the team captain replacing us in the recovery effort, Barb Davis, was so accommodating in letting us represent them in the community, sight unseen initially. Particularly, dear to our hearts, are the women of the Franklin City Community Service Board. These women, who continued tending to the needs of persons with mental health, mental retardation and substance abuse issues, placing aside their own grief, minus their records and files, as their clinic lay under 10 feet of water for days on end, are very special indeed.

Susan Tydings Frushour

June 16th, 2000

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

1985 Virginia Election Day Flood, Waynesboro/Augusta Co

At the time of the flood, we lived smack dab in the middle of a flood plain, in the beautiful neighborhood of Club Court, in Waynesboro (Augusta Co), Va. Raising four children, in a lovely area of homes on cul de sacs, meandering streets on the banks of the South River, a usually safe and quiet area of 49 homes, nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, at the foot of Afton Mountain, & the Blue Ridge. It was a joyous & serene setting for families. We had lived there for 9 yrs, & knew when to worry from previous high water events. For example, the large rock in a neighbor’s back yard on the edge of the river, when it was covered in water, we knew to be concerned. The city was quickly approaching flood stage. The City Manager, Police, WFAC Rescue Squad, Fire Dept., & City Shop’s personnel, would periodically visit our neighborhood, to keep us aprised of river conditions, in the 48-hrs preceding the flood. We felt their concern, and consequently felt safer, & we so appreciated their presence, as a show of support. Waynesboro is blessed to have now, as we did then, a caring city government & emergency services sector. Small towns care for their own, oh so well. However, nothing really prepared us for the unexpected days of continuous rains, and rising waters, eventually resulting in 3 1/2 feet of swiftly moving water, reaching over our kitchen counter tops. We slept with our clothes and boots on, in our Family Room, night after night, monitoring water levels. Cars had been moved to higher ground, and we prepared a list of friends with room for a large family, if we needed to flee in the middle of the night. Two times that week, we sought higher ground, the first resulting in water receeding before it entered our home. My daughter, in middle school at the time, recalls her father at one point yelling, “run up the hill to the car, we’ve got to go”. I began to cry for the first time, when I saw Christmas decorations made by the children, floating away in flood waters entering our garage. The four children were moved three blocks away, high on a hill, at the entrance to Club Court, to the home of a close personal friend. Later, the two youngest children were moved out of state to our families, the Tydings & Frushours, in Md., while renovations took place. It takes a special type of person to welcome a family of six into their home in the middle of the night. God bless Judy Mauck, a Physical Therapist, at Waynesboro Community Hosp. We will never forget her kindness; the children lived with her for 2-wks., as we did periodically, when not guarding our home. Looters had sneaked into our neighborhood, bypassing the barricades set up by Law Enforcement. Disasters bring out the best & worst in people. By in large, our experience was wonderfully supported. Someone stole my husband’s power tools, and my stamp & coin collections. Many wonderful people came to our aid, preceding & following the flood. Friends & strangers moved our first floor furniture to the 2nd floor. Fishburne Military cadets offered their services with heavy lifting; such wonderful teenagers. Our teenager’s friends came out in droves, along with their parents. Former clients of mine, were some of the first to show up, the morning the waters receded. Isn’t that amazing, people wrestling with their own demons of addiction and major mental illness, rolled up their sleeves, & showed up to assist, some even before my own friends could get to the house. Offers for cleanup came from far and wide, with supplies and food; relatives from out of state arrived by the car loads, with mops,cleaning supplies in hand, and shoulders to cry on. I cried a lot the first few days after the flood, my husband looked numb. People remember the darndest things in retrospect, after experiencing a disaster. Jerry remembers 1st, as he drove back down to our house on the river, an “Oh No” moment, as he realized approaching the back of the house, on higher ground than the house, that the woodpile, he added to all summer, cutting down trees won in a Lottery Program from the National Park Service, was gone. My daughter Kelley, 1st remembers that the dog house was missing from the back yard, as was her two younger brother’s sandbox. She remembers my crying over loosing my mother’s 1st edition, signed copies of the original OZ books, & photo albums. Her two younger brothers lost all their toys & games, stored in the basement. She & her older brother never complained that their College Fund, went to cover repair costs not reimbursed through insurance. They went on to attend, between the two of them, four fine Virginia colleges & universities, as out-of-state tuition was out of the question. Regardless, they thrived & succeded quite well. We hugged a lot. We had each other, the kids. Our work and church communities wrapped loving arms of support around us. Many flood survivors in Augusta Co. were not as fortunate; some had deaths, & some just a cement slab, where a home once stood. Some had no support system and few friends. We sent extra volunteers to the homes of people needing assistance. We were blessed. My collegues from Western State Hospital, janitorial staff, many, many social work friends, the Treatment Team I worked with, & physicians, spent countless days cleaning, along with Hershey Choc. employees, & local Elks. The City “fathers” made countless visits with words of support, and we got to know FEMA intimately. A surprise to some, we became & are to this day, FEMA fans. The Red Cross ERVs & Salvation Army Canteen food trucks would make their rounds through the neighborhood, with sanwiches & hot coffee. Ministers from a gazillion denominations came by; all were wonderfully available for a chat when my heart felt too heavy from upsettedness & grief. I took 2-wks leave from work. We were lucky, as we were well insured through our Home Owners coverage, and National Flood Insurance. We pumped out the basement, to find snakes, fish, and a turtle. We all got very sick with a GI bug, from cleaning up sewage affected items, even after taking all recommended sanitary precautions. We ripped out insulation and walls, flooring, tore out carpet, refinished floors, and slept like the dead, exhausted, at night. Waynesboro recovered, many homes were bought out through Project Impact funds; the city continues to wrestle with flooding problems to this day. We now live on a hill. Susan Tydings Frushour 10/22/10

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

2009 Mother’s Day Floods, Gilbert, West VA

GILBERT West Virginia, Logan Co., Mother’s Day Floods May 2009



I am home, essentially because the motel “kicked us out”, & we had no where to go. The ATV/4-wheeler festival is taking place, regardless of the recent flood. ARC had just closed the staff shelters the day before, @ the firehouse & @ Horsepen Baptist Church (which was shared by both Baptists & Red Cross). We were housed 1-hr away in Chapmanville, the closest housing large enough to support a large group of red crossers. So, we had no where to live while providing services to the community. Is there something about this picture that doesn’t make sense? I don’t know why someone didn’t ask the Army if we could share the gym with them @ the YMCA community center (Joe Harless Center). Mr. Toothman, the kind & gentle Southern Baptist Kitchen Manager (a BLUE hat), in Gilbert, said time & time again, what a good collaborative deployment this was, & very different than his previous experiences. @ least our working relationships were very good. I am presently cleaning out my suitcase & repacking just in case they need help in Florida. Jerry woke me up to a wonderful cup of coffee (I couldn’t find decent coffee throughout this DSHR deployment), & the news that there is flooding in Florida. If they call out the ARC, I’ll tell Jill that I need a few days of rest, some time to use the PC & pay bills on-line, etc. I have very special family living in southern Fl).

I haven’t watched the news or read a newspaper for a week; I am so out of touch with the rest of the world. I just need to decompress, debrief, etc., before I can put the ARC red cap back on my head. I promised myself, while in Gilbert, to take 1/2 the size suitcase next time out. My good ARC buddy, Bob Miller, remembers how heavy my suitcase was during Gustev & IKE deployments. The ARC gives us a small daily stipend, primarily for meals, & necessities, so I can buy essentials in a pinch while on the road instead of lugging all this suitcase weight around. I also rely on my old LL Bean backpack, which has seen me through every deployment over the past 10-yrs.

My Gilbert deployment had some very memorable “tender” moments; the emotional Kodak Moments that tug at your heart strings, such as meeting the wonderful, young adult, volunteers & some of our client’s stories. As with most life changing disaster events, most people initially rally in a heroic energized fashion, before tough reality sets in. We were there mostly during that phase, so by-in-large, the clients & community people were wonderful, thankful, & welcoming. What I don’t understand, is why people get so angry, when they live next to a river, have no flood or home owner’s insurance, & are furious that FEMA won’t pay for all their damages, including out-buildings, decks, cars, etc. Yesterday I listened to a man, very angry, @ FEMA, (FEMA had already been to his home), because FEMA wouldn’t fix & replace everything, when he had no flood or home owner’s ins. I had to coach this angry gentleman on how to go to the Community Ctr. to meet w/ FEMA, & the need count to 10, before he entered the room, because he was a little too visibly angry.  I bit my tongue many times. When we were flooded out in ’85, with 4-ft of water in our home, & 4-kids living @ home, we were well insured, & realized eventually the stupidity of us continuing to live in, although a lovely area, a community where 100-yr floods were occurring every 5 yrs or so. We now live on a hill!

In respect to the ARC, there is so much for me to learn. The “well traveled” red crossers use a language I still don’t fully understand. Terminology stumps me frequently. What I do understand, is the commonality that we do share, a willingness & desire to assist others with the tragedies of their lives. That’s what keeps me from being too angry w/ some of our volunteers.  We have such different backgrounds, a great age range, & yet we get along so we can serve others. It is absolutely amazing.

I came home to finding out that someone had come into our yard at night, & had stolen the beautiful hanging baskets of flowers in our front yard that I had received for Mother’s Day & my birthday, a few days before deployment; purchased @ a lovely Mennonite greenhouse. We have lived in our home for 20-yrs. & have never had this type of problem. My goodness, I was not happy. If I wasn’t so glad to see Jerry, I think I would have cried. But I am happy as I bask in the memories of the people we served & the wonderful new friendships I made. I will surely miss these very special people. susan

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Red Cross Journal Notes: LOGAN COUNTY WEST VIRGINIA FLOODS 6/12/10


Subject: Red Cross Journal Notes, DR 112-10, Logan Co WVA

6/28/10 We are presently in the midst of a flash flood warning covering the entire flood area; I am working this deployment, in Client Case Work Services. Last month, in the Mississippi tornado, & then Memphis flood/tornado deployments, I was in Health Services as an EMT; this time I am a case worker, which is just “old school” social work. I love it, & it is one of my favorite red cross Functions; as a retired 38 year social worker, this helps fill the void I miss from my working yrs:  Day 8 of deployment, in Logan Co, West Va., serving residents in Shamrock, Cora, & Holden. I don’t even know where to begin……it has been one of the longest of weeks, with hours spent on the road each day. We initially were not able to live near the Client Casework HQ in Logan, WVA, consequently, we not only spent approx 3 hrs a day driving back & forth to our housing @ a very austere Motel 6 in Charleston, we then spent hours on the road going from hollar to hollar, to dismal coal mining camp towns, with most homes in terrible disrepair, trying to find residents of homes either destroyed, or with significant major damage & uninhabitable. Occasionally we find people living in filthy, mold ridden, damp homes, because they lost their vehicles in the flood & couldn’t go anywhere for services. Some homes have been cut off from society because their bridges washed away. Wonderfully resilient, proud, resourceful, very poor people, with few local social service agencies assisting, except for the local Churches of God & Catholic Charities. WVA is one of the Meth capitals of the country, & the physical, gross deterioration identifies some we serve; use is obvious. Frequently we are in rural areas with high crime rates, with meth labs in the neighborhoods, however the people treat us well. We are always cautious, locking our vehicles, & gear, but really not fearful. Gavin DeBecker wrote the “Gift of Fear”, fantastic primer, which trains you to be vigilant & aware. I always heed his advice.  We always pair newbies, who might tremble inside, with experienced teams. 99 44/100 % of the community residents have been very friendly to us. I have rented a large Ford Explorer (red cross rental), that is now covered in mud, inside & out; recently  noticed that the front windshield is cracked, which might cause a bit of commotion with Transportation. I feel like I am in a small tank, & after a wk w/ it, think I could turn around in a tight space w/ ease, on a dime; I’ve been driving in places I never would have dared to go before (isn’t that part of the original Star Trek intro?); its fun allowing myself permission (out of necessity) to drive over curbs, park on sidewalks, through fields, up steep hills, mountain dirt roads, etc. I’ve even learned to use mirrors. Yes Virginia, I have never learned to use mirrors properly; I sure do now. Scared myself though the other day, with driving up the steepest mountain incline I’ve ever attempted to navigate before, trying to reach a potential client; it was scariest driving back down; gravel & mud, no shoulder, one lane. If I’d had to back up, I don’t think even w/ 4-wheel drive that I’d been able to. Cell phones don’t work, & I hope someone is going to get us Satellite phones soon. We shouldn’t go out into the field w/o a means of emergency communication. Personally, I think it is a Risk Management issue, but I am not King of the World; I am a small cog in a gigantic wheel. However, it is dangerous for us to be navigating mountain, flooded terrain, going to the “last holler on the left”, w/o emergency communication ability. Our personal & Red Cross phones don’t work. I did have two additional scares when an idiot almost ran me off the interstate Friday, when I was going 70 (speed limit on WVA interstates), & if I hadn’t paid attention, I’d have ended off the side of a very steep mtn., and Ruth & I probably wouldn’t have been found until next spring’s thaw. Sat., as I was pulling over to park the SUV, to assess damages @ a home, a teenager decided @ the same time as I was parking, to fly around the corner behind me, & passed me on the right shoulder just cranked up & flying, on an ATV; he came up to the exact place I was pulling over onto; again, if I hadn’t been paying attention, I would have probably badly injured or killed him. Scared my 76 year old partner who has been my roommate all wk, to death, (her hands finally stopped shaking).  ATVs rule the world here.  We now have been  moved (over the weekend) to Logan Co high school, where we are in a RC Staff Shelter, about 100 Client Casework, & Mass Care staff. I love Staff Shelters.  Not the Ritz, but very close to the HQ in Logan, saving us 3 hrs on the road ea day. Rush hour morning traffic is a bear when we have an 8 am meeting & we are so far away from the case work HQ.  The Staff Shelter Manager, S O, & his Ass’t Jerry, are wonderfully helpful, attentive, & are trying to make these living quarters a good fit for us. I’m sleeping on a cot (w/ an air mattress) w/ about 30 other gals (we are having the time of our lives & we are laughing MOST of the time) running around w/ flashlights; reminds me fondly of memories living in the dorms @ UMD & camping; the men are in a room next door.  My biggest problem is that I am NEWS & WEATHER INFO deprived; I haven’t had time to read a single paper, or watch news/weather on TV for 8 days. I am going through news withdrawal. Soon, FEMA will move into the front of the sch bldg. to set-up the local Disaster Recovery Center. I hope FEMA brings in portable showers & laundry services. Communal showers are such great fun :).  However, the convenience of close proximity to HQ is wonderful, giving us more time with clients, & more time to sleep. We are in the community from 8:30 am until 6, when we return to HQ to have the evening meeting for 1 1/2 hrs (you know us social work types, we have to process everything to death); 1st meeting @ 8 am sharp! A couple of days the heat index was 104¤; last few cooler. I desperately need clean clothes, so my mission now is to get laundry done.   Ah, life’s simple pleasures. It is 1 am, must go. I am OK, not too much bump & grind, happy, (actually I’m loving every minute of it), & I am off tomorrow. I am constantly reminded during my deployment travels of my DSHR, FEMA, Southern Baptist, & Salvation Army disaster partner friends, spread out all over the country who I miss so, & hope to run into them on the disaster recovery road; I so miss Linda B, Bob M, Ruby D, Shanda F, Jessica H, Lynn P, Charlie M, Debbie H, Cathy H, Henry N, John K, Chuck S, Sharon S, et al. I did receive a wonderful surprise, as a good red crosser friend, Tony C, is here. We love bumping into DSHR friends.  We are all One Red Cross.  Be Safe/Be Prepared.  susan

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Journal Notes Red Cross last note from Memphis 5/31/2010

Subject: Journal Notes Red Cross last note from Memphis 5/31/2010

Hi family & friends, Yes, I am flying home tomorrow, Mon. I miss my family, the animals, Blue Ridge Mountains, & our green Shenandoah Valley. This deployment well suited my background in psychiatric social work, EMS, & Emergency Management. I finally have many tools in my toolbox, & this gives me a true advantage when working in the field. Most of my work in the field w/ Client Case workers is just “old school social work” w/ a medical component. Now, I must renew my EMT license to continue in Red Cross Health Services. I’ve been bitten by the Health Service bug.  I became an EMT at the ripe age of 58, due to my experiences with the Katrina Red Cross deployment.  In the field/community, I spent most of my time this DR (disaster response), with the disaster mental health clinicians; again, I’ve met the most wonderful red crossers. @ Disaster HQ sites, Health Services staff are located next to the Mental Health clinicians; we share clients & constantly call on each others fields of expertise for Consults. We frequently go into the field together on request of the Client Case Workers. Client Casework is another favorite “function” of mine, so I have the best of both worlds w/ casework & mental health. In the Red Cross, EMTs are truly viewed as peers w/ the nurses, & the RNs, fully rely on our EMS prehospital skills, for a lot of the more acute issues we see.                Clients are still in the shelter, & I think it is now too comfortable; there aren’t enough incentives for them to leave. Here they have kind staff from many agencies, 3 hots & a cot. Our presence too long enables dependency, not independence & recovery. The residents have bonded w/ staff.  It’s odd; we have to wean our clients off our gracious services. It is also difficult for some staff/volunteers to say goodbye. One of my favorite psychiatrists from Western State Hospital, Peter Schofield, use to educate us on how staff, unintentionally, enabled pt resistance to discharge, & our ethical obligation, to establish boundaries, so that both we & patients not get too close. The Red Cross needs to better educate volunteers on the pitfalls of enabling & not establishing professional boundaries.   Not for me, I am so ready to say “goodbye”.  There is a fine line between service & enabling. This morning I slept in & went to Mass. Quite frankly, my batteries needed recharging. Yesterday I went out w/ Annie, a case worker, from NC; while she was completing paperwork for the 2nd client; I actually fell asleep in the car while Annie used the trunk for a desk. Whew, I was so embarrassed. Thank God I didn’t snore.  So, no going out on Sat night for me; while others went to Casinos, I went to bed @ 9 pm.                       I feel like a new person today. There are only 3 of us left in Health Services now; HQ is empty except for a small handful of volunteers; about 10 of us. I shredded documents for 2 hrs; I felt like a Watergate or Enron clandestine operative. There is no sadness in leaving. Client needs have been met, & agencies can pickup where we leave off. I am free to leave all of this behind, as I am too tired to be of much help before my batteries are recharged. I need to see my husband Jerry, the many pets, & dig with my hands in the garden’s dirt. Can’t wait to go back to the Fitness Center; I miss my regular exercise program, & the garden area which my daughter Kelley named the “Rain Forest”. I refer to it now as my ZEN garden. Buddha is calling my name. The Holiday Inn took out their exercise equipment due to renovations, & I sorely miss the strength bldg machines @ AHC.  I am rambling. The next Journal Notes will probably be hurricane related, as Tues is the official beginning of Hurricane Season. Be safe, Be prepared….. ~susan~

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment