November 9th, 2012

crossed heart

Red Cross Trip Logisitics and Day One

Originally published at Cassie Alexander. You can comment here or there.

Hello all!

We’ll see how often I’m able to do these — I’m in town for a little bit here. We got in to the shelter last night, and I’m working a night shift tonight, so I got outta dodge for a bit with a car to a Starbucks, before I go back to try to nap. I think tomorrow I’ll be too tired to go anywhere, heh ;).

So here’s the scoop so far on how this works, because it’s interesting and I know some of you love research as much as I do.

Probably the most asked question I’ve gotten is “Do they pay for you to fly out?”

Yes. The Red Cross pays for all your transportation. They have a travel agency that books everything — once they know you’re going out, and what day you’re coming back, they take care of all of that. You might be on a redeye and you’ll definitely be in a middle seat, but they cover it all.

And in a weird way, part of your job is helping to transfer vehicles back and forth to the site for people — not clients, as driving people is outside of our scope legally – but so that the people who are on site will have transportation available to them on their off days and for when they themselves need to go back.

They also cover all of your lodging. However, lodging availability is dependent on the situation. They do try to get you into hotels or shelters that are just staff, but they can’t guarantee that, which is why I spent the night in a client shelter last night.

(As an aside — they give you a Red Cross debit card, and you get a $33 per diem to use — it’s all on there, so it’s cumulative, or you can pull out cash ahead of time, which is actually recommended because places may not have electricity to use the credit-card part of things. Gas for your car comes out of that too.)

Yesterday, we drove in to a logistics headquarters, which was cool. It was set up like a war room, in a way, with maps covering all the walls, with post-it notes keeping track of locations, staff, numbers of clients (which is the approved term, instead of patients, which makes sense, since not everyone at the shelter is literally a patient of mine, heh.) and they were running cable for better communications, and assigning donations and supplies out to site based on current needs.

Like all wars — even when they’re just wars against the weather — there was a ton of hurry-up-and-wait. You just have to be chill when that happens. Everyone’s volunteer, and everyone is doing the best they can.

After our orientation at HQ, we drove to the current shelter last night. The shelters at this site are giant-giant tents. They’re heated, but everything is separate. There’s portapotties outside, and then a shower tent, and a mess hall tent, and a headquarters tent. So you’ll be “dear god i have to take off my coat or I’ll die” roasting in one tent…but if you have to go outside to go to the bathroom, you have to put it all back on.

I have to say, I was so so so so soooooooooooooo glad I packed like I did. Despite the fact that I’ve worn the same outfit (with the exception of sock and underwear changes ;)) since I’ve landed so far, I’m really glad I bought a huge ass duffle bag and brought my sleeping bag. It saved my bacon last night, when it got so cold not even the massive blower-heaters seemed to be able to catch up. (I started off the night on top of my sleeping bag, then in it, then burrowed inside of it for dear life.)

I’m gonna get a good charge on my phone now, go back and try to rest-sleep (under the bright lights, with the blowers billowing the heat of the sun out ;)). My first shift starts at 8 PM tonight. It sounds like (emphasis on ‘sooooouunnndds like’) our jobs at night are to make half-hourly to hourly patrols of the room and just make sure that everyone’s doing OK, plus to deal with whatever comes up. There’s some respiratory infections going around for sure.

I’ve got hand sanitizer, extra coffee and a miners light all ready go to. Cross your fingers that they find someplace safe and dark for me to sleep in tomorrow after working all night, because that’ll be a little heavy if they don’t.

Not sure when I’ll be able to update again, but we’ll see :D. I’ll be posting on twitter as I can (as I feel comfortable using phone battery) as CassieY4.