With Hurricane Matthew hitting the Southeastern coastline, there was great need for staff and volunteers to help support and accommodate all the shelters inland for coastal evacuees. This being my first deployment, I was hopeful that I would be partnered with another staff member/ volunteer that was a Red Cross veteran and had more experience with deployments. However, the staff member I was assigned to was ALSO on his first deployment! His name is Tim O'Toole and he serves as a Disaster Specialist for a chapter in the area surrounding Cleveland, Ohio. Tim is in his 50s and has served with the Red Cross a little shy of 2 years now. We connected at the Atlanta Red Cross chapter office and then made our preparations to move out into the field.
As he and I made the drive south to Dublin, he shared with me more detail of his 30 years of experience with a local Fire Department (the majority of them serving as the Department Chief). I quickly realized that Red Cross was fortunate to have “snagged” Tim for a second career and that he was probably not the typical individual going on a first time deployment. That proved to be true throughout our stay in Georgia! Tim was an effective communicator and helped us build up the trust and faith with their emergency response community as Red Cross representatives (from Tennessee and Ohio). Regardless of the fact that Tim too was on his first deployment, I honestly couldn't have been partnered with a better mentor!
As we arrived in Dublin and settled in at the EMA office, it was immediately obvious to Tim and I that there was a spirit of comradery that existed between the leadership of all of the first responder agencies that is not the norm nationwide. They were all in unison as they collected the information and data regarding Hurricane Matthew’s path and what the current conditions were for all of the Georgia Coastal counties and communities.
I've been impressed since coming aboard the Mid- West TN chapter staff team with our local Disaster Program Manager’s (Heather Carbajal) efforts to align with the EMA Directors, Fire Chiefs, Police Chiefs, Public Health officers, etc. in the respective counties of our chapter territory. Being given the opportunity to observe the Laurens County teamwork in Georgia, I now understand more than ever Heather’s ongoing goal to build unity and trust in the emergency response communities here in West Tennessee. Great job Heather!
As I stated in my article last month, please continue to thoughtfully consider deployment of your own in the days and weeks to come. As I’m sure many of you are aware, the wild fires of East Tennessee continue to build and grow in their devastation. We now have the opportunity to go and help our “friends to the East” in our own state. They don’t call us the VOLUNTEER state for nothing! Heather and I look forward to getting you signed up and suited up!!