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National Response - Flexibility and Perseverance are Key

Volunteer Ned
I got the call about a possible deployment in May of 2013, one day after the tornado hit. I immediately committed to a two-week tour.

Dino Ingram is a Red Cross volunteer and contributing writer.

Okay everybody let’s gather ‘round in a circle. I want to tell you all a story about a man named Edward Webb, a seventy-one year old man who goes by the moniker, Ned. His roots are in Illinois but he has called Topeka his home for the last sixteen years. Together, he and his bride Kathy have raised three daughters and three sons. They have six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Net spent forty years in the Economic Development sector, serving as a city manager, State Housing Director and Economic Development Director. His career resume is too long to list here. I found it interesting that he also spent eighteen years as a paid on-call fireman. As he describes it, he was somewhere between a regular fireman and a volunteer, in that he got paid five-dollars for each call he went on, regardless of its duration. Ned now divides his retirement time between his antique business and fishing. Fresh, salt or mud puddle, it doesn’t matter. If it holds water he’ll try and put a boat in it. Oh and I almost forgot, he’s also a Red Cross volunteer.

Ned is a Disaster Action Team (DAT) captain. He’s on-call about every five weeks, “carrying the bag.” After being a local volunteer for two years he went on his first national deployment to Moore, Oklahoma. He had a lot to say about that. Here’s how it started. “I got the call about a possible deployment in May of 2013, one day after the tornado hit. I immediately committed to a two-week tour.”

Two days later, with bags packed he was heading south with three other local volunteers. He was ‘boots on the ground’ only four days after the tornado struck Moore. Upon arrival, his group was processed at the disaster scene with the other new arrivals. They were then divided up based on training and experience. His team was sent to the University of Oklahoma, tasked with identifying and evacuating local residents who had taken shelter in several dormitories. The teams’ objective, to get the residents relocated to one of four Multi-Agency Resource Centers (MARCs) that were set up to pool relief resources. The task was daunting at best. Working fourteen hour days, it took him and his team eight days to get the dormitories evacuated. He got one day of rest and was then assigned to the Moore MARC for the duration of his tour. He brought home some impressions and lessons that he wanted to share. He told me that each day brought diversity in terms of a ssignments and staff. “If you’re going to deploy, be prepared for confusion, change, and flexibility. Communication will be difficult and finding housing for people and their pets will be challenging.”

He discovered the keys to being effective as a volunteer. You need to be flexible, and prepared to accept the challenge to take on responsibilities for which you haven’t received formal training. As he puts it, “Use your common sense. Listen to the experienced Red Cross volunteers and staff who have been to many deployments. They have useful knowledge.”

There were two memories that he carried home with him. The first was of the large number of volunteers who were still coming in to help, nineteen days after the tornado hit. Second was the memory of the people he helped and the hope for them, that they were all secure and safe.