Monday, February 20, 2017

Tornado disaster relief with Red Cross…/red-cross-responds-to-new-orl…/8730091

Volunteer hours for this activity: 16
Total volunteer hours this semester: 16

On February 7th, 2017 an EF-3 tornado struck the New Orleans area. On February 10th, and 11th, I volunteered with the Red Cross.

Some of the heaviest property damage occurred in New Orleans East, so that is where they sent me with a truck full of rakes and shovels. A full-time volunteer drove, while I hung out in the back. We traveled down the streets where we could see the most debris. When we spotted people outside working to clean up the mess, we would ask them if they wanted a rake and a shovel. Every time, they said yes, and eagerly came to grab one of each.

The tornado produced some interesting patterns of damage. One house would be leveled, while the house next door was untouched. I saw a lot of the lucky people assisting their less lucky neighbors. A few families already had lumber delivered and were starting to rebuild.

I got to meet a lot of New Orleans residents. They all seemed to be in good moods despite the unfortunate event. It seemed like they had all been through this before, and knew what to do.

Working with the Red Cross was an interesting experience. The operation is unique and it is managed so differently than anywhere else I have worked. The workers had a sense of calm, and confidence that appeared to be rooted in the knowledge that they were doing good work. The main manager was driven and attentive. However, the atmosphere lacked the organization and sense of urgency that is universal in competitive businesses.

There were things that I would do differently if I were king. For example, I think it was an unnecessary impedance for us to have each resident sign a form before getting getting their rake and shovel. I also think it would have been OK to let them pick up one for their neighbors instead of being so strict (I broke that rule several times). There was also way too much sitting around the office before we embarked to the location.

There is always room for improvement in any organization. I really respect and admire the Red Cross, and their work. I had a good time, I hope I made a small positive contribution by doing the manual labor of passing out equipment. I also gained some understanding of the strong sense of community that the New Orleans residents share.

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