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Deployed: Jarrett Barrios

American Red Cross of Eastern MA CEO Jarrett Barrios is writing about his deployment to the areas of NY hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.

Waking up exhausted is never a good sign.  Reading my blog post from yesterday, all the tell-tale signs were there — particularly brevity.  Brevity from a Cuban is a serious red flag.

Sunday morning was the low-point for me physically in the adjustment to the “disaster life.”  Today, my body seems to have turned a corner, helped a bit by the fact that the ubiquitous Dunkin’ Donuts (which I studiously avoid in Beantown) actually make espresso.  Espresso + Jarrett = productivity.

After I got up and dragged myself into the office, the morning passed in a blur.  First on tap, the shelters on Long Island.  To get a little perspective, the shelter census for the entire operation (20 shelters in 5 states) was 1,434 people.  10 of those shelters and about 700 of those people were in our area on Long Island—with the large majority of them in Nassau County.   Many areas on the south side of the island got socked:  Long Beach and East Rockaway all the way east to Mastic.  A drive through Long Island yesterday showed thousands of houses that had been flooded and were uninhabitable.

But after nearly two weeks, many of our hosts at shelters were jonesing to get back to some semblance of normality.  We were helped by the return of power to most homes – only 150,000 were without power by Sunday— allowing people to go home again.  This allows us to begin consolidating shelters as the population declines, but raises issues of transitions—closing a shelter and cleaning it up; putting together paperwork for our guests who are returning to homes that need work and families that need services; working with the state to help the pre-storm homeless get access to State and Federal services they are entitled to; and working with local officials to message all this correctly.

Jarrett Barrios among those in the “bulk distribution” effort at the Red Cross on Long Island, NY.

By lunchtime, I was ready to visit the Suffolk County feeding and bulk distribution sites.  Visits give us important information about quality of service and “product” – as well as a sense of how our amazing volunteers are being utilized.  With Lois Grady-Wesbecher, I started at the site furthest east on Long Island, Mastic Beach.  We later visited Babylon Town Hall and the Cedar Creek Park in Massapequa.  Each of these places were distribution centers for much of the items to be distributed.  Each had dozens of volunteers and a steady clip of visitors looking for hot food, non-perishable dry goods, bottled water and clean up supplies.

The Cedar Creek site also had about half a dozen insurance companies, National Grid, FEMA and Papa John’s Pizza.  (The pizza company seems to be stepping up to give out pizzas, but their anti-gay policies meant my walking right by without sampling!).  I spent about 45 minutes unloading a large truck filled with water and food supplies, then helping plan the distribution for the next day.

Returning to the office, there were a series of conference calls with the national public affairs team, then the operations management folks.  By 8 pm, I was done.  By done, I mean done.   Once I got back to the staff shelter, I got on Twitter and read a story posted to the Boston Phoenix blog on Occupy Sandy.  How interesting and complementary an effort!  My view?  All hands on deck.  It’s great that folks are helping on their own.  A friend from Facebook — Jerry Belair — messaged me that they had sent two trucks of water and blankets from Rhode Island.  Bring it on.  Occupy Sandy folks?  They need you like they need Red Cross.  Let’s get it on.

Deployed: Day 3

Deployed: Day 2

Deployed: Day 1


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