The “more later” in the last post was much less than expected — my site’s server went down when I tried to post earlier today.
I attended the Red Cross orientation today, and put in all my paperwork. I gather to serve nationally, you normally have to go through some classes and take a physical. However, St. Louis has to provide 882 people in the next ten days to help relieve those who have been working at the shelters, so these requirements have been waived. The only delay now is that a police check has to be made on all of us to ensure we’re not potential child molesters or some such thing.
Once the check is complete, we’re entered in the database. We’re then called and asked to go to a specific state: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, or Texas. We’ll have 24 hours to report, and we’re given a number for the Red Cross travel management to call. They’ll arrange a flight, and a rental car if needed. We then have to go down to the St. Louis office and pick up a debit card that will have money charged on it to meet our expenses — a sum of money that breaks out into 34.00 a day per diem for meals, tips, personal medicines such as insect spray, and gas.
The Red Cross provides shelter. If there are hotels open in the area, we’ll stay in those, usually with a roommate. Otherwise, there will be shelters that are specifically for Red Cross staff only. The Red Cross workers do not sleep in the same buildings of those who are helped. We put in 14-15 hour shifts, but at that point, we’re told to get away; otherwise, people burn out.
We’re also encouraged to go out to dinner on occasion: both to help the local economy and also to stave off burn out. I gather that it can be emotionally very difficult for shelter workers, and the Red Cross has mental health professionals checking out folks frequently to see who is losing it.
Normally an assignment is for three weeks, but people can volunteer for 10 days in this emergency. I volunteered for 3 weeks, and if I can hack it, will stay for four. At that time, I have to come back home–the Red Cross won’t allow anyone to stay at a site more than four weeks.
Now, when I come home, I can immediately put in to be re-assigned after I’ve had a few days to decompress. So, again, if I can hack it, I could be serving at shelters for the most part through December.
There are numbers for the Red Cross members to call in any eventuality, and you’re supposed to check in back home frequently–you’re never away from help. The organization does not want those who volunteer to worry about a place to sleep, clean clothes, food, or cracking up under the strain. The reason why is that we have to present a together appearance to those we’re helping. If we look like we’re falling apart, it will make it that much worse for the people in the shelters.
The organization is absolutely brilliant — the travel management, the use of the debit cards, and so on. Even the mental health workers so that we can have a quiet cry at times.
I’m preparing my kit this next week, and am expecting to be called by end of the following week. I won’t be taking my computer, I won’t be blogging, and I won’t take my digital camera. I will, though, be taking my old film camera and plenty of film and batteries; and enough clean underwear for ten days, because it could be that long before access to a laundry. Hopefully, we’ll have electricity and running water where we’ll be, but no guarantees.
The folks who were in the room with me taking orientation were an interesting group of folk. Most just quietly got the information they needed, but some asked some fairly silly questions. For instance, one person had assumed that when you were called, you’d have a couple of weeks to get ready for deployment. I doubt she’ll continue with the 24 hour notice. Another was taken back by the thought of no showers and electricity. Makes me wonder what some folk think of when they think of ‘disaster’.
I am glad, though, that I have this week to prepare in case of call-up. Writing to do, code to provide.