Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Long Day's Night

It has been a long day. Even when you know it will be a long day its hard to over come it in your mind. My day started out with the normal routine of getting my daughter to school followed by a very brief check-in at the office to make sure I wasn't needed urgently after Tuesday evening's earthquake. I then proceeded to a scheduled meeting at the FEMA field office just north ofdowntown for the morning.

The morning meeting was primarily aimed at providing a wider audience of folks an overview of the state's Disaster Housing Task Force, which had been activated rapidly last fall after the flooding here in the Atlanta area in September. It was interesting to note the following observation from one participant (paraphrased):

In some ways we are more prepared for catastrophic disasters and how to work with our local/state/federal counterparts than the smaller disasters like an EF-3 tornado that wipes out 12 homes in a rural county. The tornado won't trigger a federal declaration (and activate federal resources) but it can be more challenging for the locals to recover from and for the state to support.

Had to agree with that observation based on my experiences to date.

The rest of the day saw me wearing my international hat rather than my domestic hat in terms of work. Situations like the one currently going on in Haiti produce a chain reaction of rapid-fire crises and decisions to be made in order for voluntary organizations to develop their plans to be a part of the post-disaster solution. I must admit there is a certain rush that comes from this work and knowing that you are going to be a part of the solution for thousands of people struggling after such a cataclysmic event but it also brings more stress and frustration with it. We try our best to do what we can given the circumstances. As a group we've spent a good bit of time just making sure our local staff is okay and safe as well as planning how to get "feet on the ground." I was specifically assigned the task of investigating our potential for generating Gift In Kind for a potential response as well as connecting with a few of our key partners. My boss came into the office this morning but will hopefully spend this evening in Santo Domingo and cross the border into Haiti tomorrow afternoon to start the assessment process.

I'm going to try to use this space to give you (the reader) a brief glimpse into the details of the work that gets done behind the scenes with a nonprofit/NGO that is gearing up for major work after a disaster over the next few days. By now you will see a lot of coverage on the general situation from thousands of media outlets (traditional and social) so there's not much point in me duplicating those efforts.

I will point out that Haiti was a hard place to send volunteers before Tuesday and it is even more so now so the best way for people to help in Haiti is to make donations to the cause they feel best suits their intent in these early days (there is a reason why the UN has decided to make Haiti one of the 13 places around the world with a semi-permanent peacekeeping mission.) If you want to make a donation (no matter how small or large) you should check out the InterAction list of agencies for the Haiti response.

Image above courtesy of Getty Images via CNN.

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