As I write this, Tropical Storm (likely soon to be Hurricane) Isaac is barreling toward Florida and the Gulf Coast. Hundreds of thousands of people are potentially in harm’s way. It’s not a place most people want to be going. But right now, hundreds of Red Crossers are going there. They are headed there in advance of Isaac to help set up shelters, position equipment and supplies, and provide minor medical help and mental health counseling.
That’s what Red Crossers do. They go into places before, during, and after a natural disaster when most people are leaving. 15 people from my chapter are there now. I, however, am not one of them. I’d like to be, but I’m not and truth be told, part of me really wishes I was. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. But for something like this, as part of the American Red Cross Advanced Public Affairs Team (APAT), I would normally be on one of the first planes down there. Being an APAT member means being the voice and sometimes the face of the Red Cross during a national disaster, like a hurricane or tornado. I can sum it up in a DM I got over twitter from a fellow APAT member that asked the question, “Why aren’t you deploying sir?”
My answer: I’m sitting this one out, because I’m about to go on vacation. I know “boo-hoo” for me. “Poor Dave is missing a hurricane to go sit on a beach in the sun with his family.”
Again, I’m not complaining. But hear me out. I would never wish for a disaster, but what is happening in Florida is exactly what I’m trained for. It’s the most rewarding and exciting part of my job. There are about 50-60 other APAT members at the Red Cross, many of whom are in Florida now. They are great to work with. And they are already doing an amazing job. I miss being a part of that.
It’s funny, today I’m sort of (but not really) complaining that my vacation was interrupting my ability to respond to a hurricane. But this time last year, I was complaining that a hurricane was interrupting my vacation.
Irene hit this very same weekend. The same weekend my vacation was supposed to begin. But unlike Isaac, Irene was striking where I live; where my Red Cross Chapter is. Not helping was not an option. I spent the first night of my vacation in a Red Cross shelter instead of walking the boardwalk eating junk food. Over the next few days, I helped my chapter and our national headquarters manage media and response in the Philly area. My vacation got delayed. I was bummed. My family was even more bummed. Mother Nature had picked an inconvenient time to show her wrath.
Same goes for this week. Any other week, I could help with the Red Cross response. But I wasn’t about to miss my vacation again. I am not about to disappoint my family again. The Red Cross will manage just fine without me.
The moral of this story is not that Dave likes to complain, though I realize it is easy to draw that conclusion. The moral is, disaster never waits for when it’s convenient. Mother Nature can choose to be angry at any moment. She can disrupt my life, your life, all our lives at the drop of a hat.
That’s why you need to be prepared. That’s why you need to have a plan for what you would do if Mother Nature was suddenly inconvenient. Don’t just assume it can wait until tomorrow. If you need help with developing that plan, go to our website, RedCrossPhilly.org. It has lots of great, free advice.
A secondary moral is to be thankful for the Red Cross and the many, many thousands of volunteers willing to have their lives interrupted on a moment’s notice to go into a potentially dangerous place, to help people they never met recover from something that’s usually far worse than just an inconvenience.