Maria Revisited

Today, I was “channel surfing” on the TV and I came across the Fox Network’s Weather News and watched a “back then” report about Hurricane Maria crashing into Puerto Rico.

I pulled out my telephone and started looking at some of the pictures I took the morning I got there…the first one was taken three minutes after midnight…the morning after the hurricane hit. We were all wearing flashlights on our heads while we unloaded the plane ourselves.

The moment the medical team arrived, we were literally and figuratively, plunged into darkness. Literally because the only lights available were our flashlights and figuratively because the communications were so difficult that, for several days, we had no news from “the outside world”.

I learned a lot from that program.

I’m Home.

I got home Friday evening around 6pm and fell asleep until the next morning.  Moving from day shift to night shift and back to day shift in the course of several days is hard on the body. 🙂

My uniforms are washed and my gear bag and day pack are re-packed and again ready to go.

The hospital where we set up the tents was the closest open hospital to the disaster zone and was designated to receive sick and injured persons from the disaster zone.  It was also expected that people in need would drive in their own cars until they encountered the hospital and “just show up”.

What the team did is called “ED decompression”.  In other words, help the hospital handle a current or expected overload of patients.

It was pretty busy.  We felt we did a good job and more importantly, the patients and their families felt we did a good job.


What I did was

  • Help set up the tents and stock them with medical supplies
  • Set up the 2-way radio equipment, the satellite telephones and help set up the computerized medical records systems.

And after that, repeat the following each day

  • Wake up
  • Shower, etc.
  • Dress
  • Eat
  • Do a quick shift change briefing with my shift replacement.
  • Monitor the electronics stuff to make sure it’s all working.
  • Change the 2-way radio batteries at the middle and end of the 12 hour shift.
  • Do a quick shift change briefing with my shift replacement.
  • Eat.
  • Sleep.

What isn’t mentioned is “drink coffee” as that was an ongoing process.   The only times I wasn’t drinking coffee was when I was showering and sleeping…and I’m not sure about not drinking coffee when I was asleep. 🙂

This routine is similar for all of my deployments and changes only if something breaks or some new requirement is suddenly made.  Then the two of us tech guys get really busy.

The job is fulfilling, rewarding, valuable and very necessary, but it is not often exciting and that’s how it should be.  If it’s exciting too often, then we are not doing our jobs correctly.

 

Waiting.

Waiting is a normal thing for disaster response.

We are sent in before the storm to wait in an area just outside of the danger zone.  So, we are in place for a few days ahead of time.

Then the storm shows up and we wait.  Then the damage reports and the “we need this” reports come in.  These reports are evaluated by state officials and are prioritized in order of importance.

Road cleaning crews get those assignments, electric utility crews get those assignments, Urban Search and Rescue teams get their assignments.

We get medical assignments….we can take over for a non functioning hospital or, if they are just overloaded, we can help them out with that by providing more medical folks and treatment areas.  We can also provide medical care to an evacutation center if that is overloading a hospital.

Fortunately hospitals are very tough and it takes a lot to damage them.   And, when “pushed”, they can handle a large overload of patients.

So we wait.  And that’s OK.  I hope we just wait until we go home.  While it is exciting to go out and do good things,  this is a time when it is better to NOT be needed.

Alert, Again

Just like last this time last year (Alert), I’m on a deployment alert again.

This time it’s because of one of the following; Hurricane Florence that is heading toward the USA east coast, Hurricane Oliva that is heading toward Hawaii, or Tropical Storm Mangkhut that is expected to become a typhoon as it moves toward Guam.

As usual, I’m hoping these all “fizzle out” or veer off into a harmless direction.