By: Robin Thompson
Pictured above is my photo op with fellow Alaskan, Alaska Otterbacher, in our American Red Cross disaster headquarters in Baton Rouge.
Alaska is part of our amazing disaster assessment team. These brave volunteers are the ones who travel into disaster-struck regions to assess damage to properties. It is the classification of damage that determines if a household qualifies for financial assistance.
The casework team (which I’m a part of) determines if we need this team to be dispatched. With water comes mold, and after four months in this heat and humidity many low impacted homes now are living with a significant biohazard. Homes that were originally ineligible now have the opportunity to be re-evaluated.
Part of my job is to determine the need for this. The best method is when I can talk to my client (the term we use to describe any person who has come to the Red Cross for help) and have them explain the extent of the damage. One client told me about fish swimming through his ground floor apartment from a nearby overflowing lake. Another had part of his ceiling collapse from water seeping through his roof and now he is unable to access the back bedroom of his mobile home. Pretty major stuff!
I then work through an interactive map program to find the location and drop a virtual flag with notes. The assessment team then picks it up and visits the property. If I can’t reach my client but believe their home may qualify I evaluate topography, proximity to FEMA zones or lakes, and look at other nearby assessment reports to make a decision. And as a last resort – before I have to give up my search to locate a missing family – I can have the team post a notice on the property with my contact information.
Caseworkers and assessment teams work in close collaboration – a critical piece during national disaster operations. As much as I love my role as a caseworker I have to admit I envy Alaska a bit as he gets to work in the field all day engaging with the community. BUT I absolutely love what I do and know this is how I can make the greatest contribution. I’m loving it!!!