Photo from: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/16/us/cajun-navy-florence-rescue.html)
Friday, September 14, 2018
Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a Cat 3. My small team of three took the light of morning to find and secure a COC (Command Operations Center) for continued SAR (Search and Rescue) operations. There were boats, EMT’s, Rescuers, Medics, Dispatchers, and a variety of other volunteers that needed a place to gather for operations. The guys with me took lead and went out into the storm to find a place that we could use.
It seemed only a short time and they had secured a local church to utilize as COC. Fortunately, it was just a short 5 min drive from our shelter location. We loaded up and headed over to set up operations at Peace Baptist Church.
We used the large, empty dining hall and haphazardly set up some tables and began dispatching again. The details of the next 48 hours are mostly a blur…I really don’t know what I did, how things fell into place, or who showed up when. Boats and rescuers started arriving to our COC almost immediately. There was no organization, no process. It was chaos…but somehow through all of the chaos, dispatches were being made, humans and animals were being rescued.
We had no electricity, and food/water was limited to what myself and some of the others had brought along. The huge cavernous dining hall was lit by the flashlights I’d gotten at Home Depot, placed on tables shining toward the ceiling.
From a team of 3 to a team of a dozen and finally over the course of 48 hrs to a team of over 30. I look back and really wonder what impact I made, if any. I can’t put a count on the number of rescues, I’m not a rescuer. I can’t outline any specific stats or numbers or accounts that seem to matter. It all feels very irrelevant to me right now.
I’m sure that I made a difference in some way or at least I hope that I did.
I morphed into a ‘charge-nurse’ role. I did my best to organize the chaos, to make sure that tasks were being completed, that things were being taken care of. I delegated. I did intake and organization of food/supplies/parking.
I reminded the rescuers to eat and sleep, took names and assets onto a personnel log, I welcomed our new volunteers and helped them settle and find a job in the chaos. I was constantly moving, assigning jobs, and doing what I could to control the chaos. I didn’t do much direct dispatch, instead I played the ‘devils advocate’ on multiple occasions in an effort to ensure the safety of the rescuers. I constantly asked questions about the rescue conditions, current weather, and a myriad of other parameters. All in an effort to make sure that our rescuers could complete their rescue and return safely. I provided comfort and reassurance when and where it was needed.
More than anything…I was there. I was trying to make a difference. There are no photos or videos. I was to busy being there. So many people impacted my life during those days and nights, faces that were a blur but left a lasting impression. I can only hope that similarly I left an impression on them or impacted their lives in some small way.