by Amital Orzech My month started with spraying chemicals on the side of obscure highways in South East Missouri. The highlight being when we found an enormous patch of knapweed and were able to empty all three gallons of chemical we each carried on our backs onto the invasive plants. Our team’s project objective changed when we were asked to go to South Carolina to help out with disaster recovery in response to the flooding that occurred in October. We went into the project understanding that it would be a lot of office work; however we didn’t know exactly what we would be doing until we arrived at the Joint Field Office (JFO) in South Carolina.
After Bruce wrangled our way through Security and got us approval to even be in the building, we were immediately put to work taking over the jobs of a FEMACorps team that was on their way out of the JFO. We took an idea they called Fast Track and within the course of one week turned their idea into a full-fledged process that utilizes an online database, Crisis Cleanup, to identify damaged homes and connect homeowners in need of repairs with volunteer agencies who are able to make them. Within the course of two weeks we have managed to contact major players in disaster recovery such as Red Cross and Salvation Army, who have agreed to work with us on Fast Track and are already sending us case referrals to add to the online database.
What I’ve liked about this project so far is that it seems to embody what we in ERT are taught from day one of orientation: that a disaster begins and ends within the community. This process, Fast Track, allows home damage reports to be logged on Crisis Cleanup by volunteer agencies within the community, and the cases are then adopted by organizations that have the ability to make the repairs.
Moving forward, the challenge will be getting the volunteer agencies to adopt cases and start making repairs as we get closer to winter and the temperature drops. Hopefully as our team continues to make connections within the counties, these ‘adoptions’ will start to pick up.
It’s been pretty incredible, talking to people within the community who have been affected by the flood. Whether a person has been on the receiving end or the providing end of aid, everyone seems to be tirelessly invested in the recovery process.