K9RST Blog- A few words from our club President
As I watch with mystifying horror, the devastation in Texas unfold, I am reminded of just how vulnerable we all are in times of natural disaster. This monster storm has just been amazing to watch. Day after day, the rain continues to pour in. They are talking about it being a once in a 1000 year rain! (what does that really mean?!!) And because this has been more of a flooding event, much of the infrastructure is still in place, so cell phones and radio networks still function well. What is not working are the roads and usual transportation routes. And the scale is hard for me to fathom. Some have said the affected area is the size of Lake Michigan. I am moved by the number of people reaching out to assist in any way they can…got a kick out of the folks from the Cajun Navy (bunch of random folks with swamp boats) who came to people’s assistance. Disasters truly can bring out the best in us…and also the worst. So far, however, things have been reasonably well managed. The issue will come when people return to their homes and work places to begin re-construction. I spent three years working on a team to rebuild houses in Biloxi. It has taken years for people to return to normal down there and now we are talking about an urban area many, many times larger. It is going to be a mess.
Seeing this event also triggered my own desire to respond. Having served on the Red Cross Emergency Communication Truck (ECRV) for almost 10 years that pull to help never really goes away. Alas, for me now, it is more a matter of just making a donation of money and not time or resources. I always said to my team of 50 volunteers who served on 4711, the truck assigned to our region, the folks from the Midwest are often the best poised to help. Generally, we are spared huge catastrophic events like this…although we have had our share of flooding and tornadoes as well. The call for help is a powerful siren. And as ham radio operators, we have a special place in this environment. Maybe not with this Texas disaster, but there will be other places and times when we will be called. Are you prepared?
We have spoken about this often in our club meetings. All disasters are local. So, to be prepared means having your own house in order. I asked my wife this morning, if we had to leave right now, what one thing would she grab? What would you grab? It is an interesting question to think about. Once important lesson my Florida cousin taught me during the hurricanes they often faced, in a real disaster have cash. Often credit cards will not work because power is out, pumps don’t work for gas and water is a premium. So, being prepared yourself is a key first step.
Beyond that, volunteer. But here is the key: if you want to volunteer, it is almost too late! Most disasters do not allow people to self deploy. It is always best to be part of a recognized group that responds and get credentialed and trained. The other point worth considering is that the real need starts tomorrow. When the storm final relents and people need to rebuild, that is when people will really need your help. This call will go on for years to come!
Where does ham radio fit into this picture? I am currently working on a planned event called the North Shore Century and the Chicago Marathon. These two events teach us how to work as a team and be prepared to deliver a product (communication messages). These are live event but they are also great training grounds for other events. It is more likely that our services will be needed for this sort of response than for a natural disaster…but it could happen.
In fact, as I am typing this note, I just got an email from the Red Cross looking for volunteers to go to Texas. I can’t deploy this time…as I will be working the Chicago marathon (and business deadlines!). Readiness partly means being prepared to serve or to lead. Responding – volunteering – giving of your time and talent is not a singularity. You need to make it an everyday practice so that when you truly are needed, you can deliver. Meanwhile, my heart goes out to the people of Texas.