Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Share a survival experience with us and explain what you learned from it. You might help someone.

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Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by yale » Thu Feb 05, 2009 12:29 am

The following was originally in another thread. It was suggested that I put it in it's own thread so as not to hijack the OPs discussion. The original discussion was regarding taking ARC MassCare course. Below was my post.

Lots of bad feelings regarding the Red Cross here.
I'll rant a bit so forgive me but you'll understand better after I explain.
Several years ago, I, along with several other ham radio operators, joined with the Baton Rouge area Red Cross chapter in training and staffing shelters. We all took the Intro to Disaster Services, Mass Care and Feeding, Damage Assessment and Shelter Operations. Some of us were certified to operate the ERVs. We held our radio club meetings and training at the chapter building. Hams repaired the old 47mhz Red Cross base and mobile radios which had sat idle for years. One of our group arrainged to have the 800MHz trunked radios, which the chapter had in storage, programmed with the talkgroups on the State Police system which the Red Cross had been authorized but had never used. Many hours were spent turning an old storage room into a well equipted communications room. We responded to several emergencies. The Chapter Volunteer Services Director was impressed enough to get his Technician license. Then one day he left for a job out of state.
The replacement director came from the New Orleans chapter. Politics reared it's head. A group of hams who had done some public events (not emcomms) for the chapter, such as communications at LSU football games, called for a meeting with the director. For some reason which still escapes me, (ego? Pride? click-vs-click) this other group was clear that the new Director send the Disaster Volunteer hams packing. It's not that the public service hams wanted to take on the jobs of responding during hurricanes and setting up and working in shelters. They just wanted the "glorified CBers" gone from the chapter. It was that or the LSU football communicatons hams would not help out at future homegames.
The new director didn't have time for all the politics between the 2 groups. He had not used hams for disasters while in New Orleans so he did not see them as an asset in the Capital Chapter. The Disaster Volunteer hams were told to take down their antennas and pack up their gear. In the future the Chapter would provide cellphones to it's shelters. We had trained, responded and proved ourselves but with a change of command and ham vs ham rivalry we were booted to the curb.
About 2 years later a little wind storm blew through our area. You may have heard of it. Someone in the press nicknamed it Hurricane Katrina. <-sarcasm.
Cell phone systems were ruined. The Red Cross put out a call for volunter ham radio operators. Few if any locals responded. Most of us had moved on to other commitments. I was appointed RACES Officer by my Parish OEP. Others were now working as radio operators for the State EOC. The Chapter was left begging for help from hams who had never trained in disaster communications or did not have the gear necessary to function (extra batteries, gain antennas, etc). Those of us working as RACES members were deploying with highpower crossband radios, j-pole or yagi antennas and long term power in our Go Kits. We set up in the shelters and talked directly to the Parish and State EOCs. The Red Cross often duplicated our efforts by sending out ill trained and equipted hams with little more than low power HTs which often would not receive and almost never transmitted from inside the shelters.
I'd be sitting there with headphones taking notes and passing traffic and look up to see a Red Cross deployed ham standing with his HT unable to hear it over the 1,200 evacuees stuffed into our shelter. Unable to get a signal to the Chapter HQ on his radio he'd have me relay the message to our EOC where a Red Cross representative was stationed.
We weren't in the shelter more than a couple of days before the EOC managed to get several of it's spare 800MHz radios programmed, charged up and issued to shelter managers. Then we stood down.
After the shelters closed and the Red Cross started doing it's after action reviews they realized that they wanted Hams to be part of their plan again. So they started contacting area clubs asking for volunteers. Those of us who were interested in EmComms for the most part truned them down. We felt betrayed by the Red Cross which we had worked so hard for. We felt that we had no use for fair weather friends. We were still able to assist during emergencies but as part of our Local and State RACES teams separate from the ARC.
Eventually the lack of hams responding to the Chapters request for volunteers convinced them that we weren't listening. So the Chapter held ham radio classes for it's own members and about 6 ended up getting their Technician tickets.
During Gustav I was to busy at work to act as a ham radio operator so I'm not sure how well the Red Cross' plans worked for that storm. I'm told that they had more problems with getting ham volunteers and then were blindsided by the lack of repeaters which were pretty much all knocked off the air. Let's get this clear. In an Emergency, a 4 watt HT isn't going to cut it. You need something with more power and a high gain antenna to get through on SIMPLEX. The Director who sent uS packing is gone. ReplaceD by someone else. I don't know if they will ever have a large, active group of Red Cross Ham radio ops again. I do know that to this day, many of my peers still will have nothing to do with the Red Cross.
Thanks for reading.
Rant off.
Last edited by yale on Thu Feb 05, 2009 4:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by prepper7 » Thu Feb 05, 2009 4:41 am

Is there an "Home Office" or governing body in the Red Cross org that you and your fellow hams could write? Since they have now experienced the results of their misguided stratagy, I imagine they would be most interested in what you and your fellows have to say. Perhaps you could be instrumental in helping them create procedures to insure communications in future.
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by bonanacrom » Thu Feb 05, 2009 4:50 am

And you where surprised that you got screwed ?
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by yale » Thu Feb 05, 2009 5:27 am

prepper7 wrote:Is there an "Home Office" or governing body in the Red Cross org that you and your fellow hams could write? Since they have now experienced the results of their misguided stratagy, I imagine they would be most interested in what you and your fellows have to say. Perhaps you could be instrumental in helping them create procedures to insure communications in future.
I guess there's "someone somewhere" who would be interested but it's all over and done with. There's already such a limited pool of people willing to volunteer for EMCOMMs that we can't effectively impliment our Parish RACES plan during emergencies. I don't need to worry about serving an agency which dismissed our help before. There's others begging for us.
Ham radio can be very political and many people get it into their heads that they want to be the only game in town. The public service guys do a great job at the football games provide comms between aid stations inside Tiger Stadium. I give them that. So it's weird that they would have a problem with another set of hams like us who had no interest in doing football games but was interested in turning out for floods, hurricaines or other emergencies.
It's not much different than the ARRL ARES Section Manager showing up at the State EOC after Katrina and insisting on being allowed to enter. Here in Louisiana ARES is not a part of EOC plans and is separate from the RACES or Auxillary Communications Service volunteers used by most agencies. The ARRL has sold itself as the Association of Ham Radio and it's ARES organization as being the de facto Ham Radio EMCOMM group. The SM was not happy when the State OEP director told him that ARES was not welcome, that the ACS/RACES people on duty had already been trained and vetted by the State and did not answer to ARRL or any other agency.
Look, I'm not sure what went on at the higher levels. I was a member of the ham radio club that assisted the Baton Rouge chapter of ARC with EMCOMMS. The new director had a meeting with the spokesman of the LSU football game ham group and our club president. We were then told that the Red Cross had cellphones to use in the future and take our toys and go home. So we did. Later they had a change of heart but we had already been burned and didn't feel like going back with them.
I think the ARC "core 5" classes are great if you want to work inside the ARC system during emergencies. Learning to operate the ERVs and providing hot meals and clean up kits to people in need is wonderful. The ARC does a pretty good job most of the time.
That said, not all experiances are of a positive nature. There is politics everywhere. If you are a Volunteer Firefighter, there's politics. If you are a member of the Society of Creative Anacronism and active in Renfairs you WILL find politics. And in the Red Cross there is also politics.
That's life.
Last edited by yale on Thu Feb 05, 2009 5:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by yale » Thu Feb 05, 2009 5:28 am

bonanacrom wrote:And you where surprised that you got screwed ?
I bet you have a VERY interesting Red Cross story to tell. :lol:
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by Lenny » Thu Feb 05, 2009 8:34 am

While not a radio operator of any sort, I worked with Red Cross on several occasions in early stages of Katrina and then Rita. I found the RC workers to be understaffed and overwhelmed. They however were always extremely grateful for our help. As most people know, the RC is staffed mainly with people who volunteer and no oranization is perfect. The RC does a lot of great things for this country and around the world. I lead to believe you are judging your anger at a single director and "rival" group. I would say you should not lump the WHOLE Red Cross into one giant "I'll never have anything to do with them" catagory. Just my opinion *EDIT* I never had any bad experience with the RC.
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by raptor » Thu Feb 05, 2009 10:54 am

With all due respect to the volunteers of the Red Cross, I have found their organization and especially their Katrina response to be organizationally challenged. It was not able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. It could not improvise and was not willing to do anything if it was not in the book, even if doing it by the book was obviously foolish.

There were several organizations that responded very well and were able to adapt, improvise and overcome sometimes despite their organization; the Red Cross was not one. The Salvation Army, USCG, Southern Baptist Groups, United Methodist Groups, LDS church groups, Jewish Family Services were all very effective in their efforts and early response. The difference was that these groups had leaders who were willing to take responsibility for results and actions. The Red Cross had only managers and supervisors, again no offense to managers and supervisors; they have their place in every organization, but they need leaders to help them do their job correctly.

EDITED TO ADD:
I want to make it clear I am not in any way being critical of the RC volunteers who worked their butts off trying to help. They had a difficult and thankless job, an unpaid job at that. I am also not being critical of the RC employees who did what they could within the constraints of the organization.
Last edited by raptor on Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by devitor » Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:00 am

my unit works with the Red Cross on a pretty much annual basis in upstate NY. in 2006 and 2007 we got hit with very severe flooding and they were a great asset.


then again, this was not even close to the scope and severity of hurricane katrina

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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by kiwilrdg » Thu Feb 05, 2009 12:36 pm

In Portsmouth, Virginia the local radio club is totally independent. They have their own response trailer that they offer the city as an emergency dispatch center (and it works great) and when they help at events they are their own boss and provide services as needed. It is great since they don't need politics. They are treated as another agency rather than needing to answer to an agency like the Red Cross, Police, Sheriff, Fire, etc.
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by Chef » Thu Feb 05, 2009 12:50 pm

Outsider perspective here . . . .

Your narrative confirms my suspicions that HAM (at least the "organized" part, not necessarily people who just want to play with technology and talk on the radio) seems to attract a lot of "Homeowners Association" busybody/petty tyrant types, people that like to carve out a territory by learning the rules and mercilessly enforcing them. I found one forum devoted to hunting down users of GMRS-band bubble-pack radios and narking them out to the FCC. These folks obviously spent a large portion of their waking hours to the heroic quest of policing bandwidth they openly stated were pretty much otherwise unused, because they got their licenses, they were right.

Sad. Pathetically sad.

I'm really sorry that your sincere efforts to help were thwarted due to territorial pissing matches.
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by Lenny » Thu Feb 05, 2009 5:54 pm

raptor wrote:With all due respect to the volunteers of the Red Cross, I have found their organization and especially their Katrina response to be organizationally challenged. It was not able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. It could not improvise and was not willing to do anything if it was not in the book, even if doing it by the book was obviously foolish.

There were several organizations that responded very well and were able to adapt, improvise and overcome sometimes despite their organization; the Red Cross was not one. The Salvation Army, USCG, Southern Baptist Groups, United Methodist Groups, LDS church groups, Jewish Family Services were all very effective in their efforts and early response. The difference was that these groups had leaders who were willing to take responsibility for results and actions. The Red Cross had only managers and supervisors, again no offense to managers and supervisors; they have their place in every organization, but they need leaders to help them do their job correctly.

EDITED TO ADD:
I want to make it clear I am not in any way being critical of the RC volunteers who worked their butts off trying to help. They had a difficult and thankless job, an unpaid job at that. I am also not being critical of the RC employees who did what they could within the constraints of the organization.
Raptor, thanks for nod to the USCG, I am proud of my team and our time there!

I guess it all depends on your experiance with them. I have always had a positive one.
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by raptor » Thu Feb 05, 2009 6:14 pm

Lenny wrote:
Raptor, thanks for nod to the USCG, I am proud of my team and our time there!

I guess it all depends on your experiance with them. I have always had a positive one.
The USCG was there from day one doing what they could do to make difference. They were organized, well lead, had a plan and were given authority to make decisions.

The US Army when they showed up (after about a week) also had a can do attitude and Gen Honore was there leading from the front like a good leader should. They clearly had more resources and stabilized the situation rapidly. When they were around you knew who was in charge.

However in the early days the USCG were there working their asses off while the NG and NOPD wallowed around in confusion bereft of leadership, planning, equipment, morale and even common sense. Meanwhile the Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Baptist Groups and United Methodist Groups all moved as close to the disaster as they could get and set up shop doing what ever they could within 24 hours of the storm. The LDS, Jewish Family Services and other religious groups followed very shortly within 24 hours. Again these groups had leadership and a plan.

EDITED to ADD:
I am not criticizing the groups who came from every state in the union to help out. Most of these groups came around the time General Honore arrived. The time frame I am addressing is the first week after Katrina when there was nothing but chaos and confusion.

I would also add that I did not see a Red Cross truck in the GNO area (not saying they were not there, just that I did see trucks/tents from the above groups) for at least a month.

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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by Cybrludite » Fri Feb 06, 2009 4:48 am

raptor wrote:I would also add that I did not see a Red Cross truck in the GNO area (not saying they were not there, just that I did see trucks/tents from the above groups) for at least a month.
I seem to recall Gov. Blank-Stare ordered the State Police to keep them out of the city.
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by raptor » Fri Feb 06, 2009 4:57 pm

Cybrludite wrote:
raptor wrote:I would also add that I did not see a Red Cross truck in the GNO area (not saying they were not there, just that I did see trucks/tents from the above groups) for at least a month.
I seem to recall Gov. Blank-Stare ordered the State Police to keep them out of the city.
I honestly don't remember but I do know the other groups were in the Orleans and Jefferson Parish in the early days.

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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by AssistncefrmaDstnce » Fri Feb 06, 2009 6:13 pm

yale,

First off, as a Red Cross volunteer, blood donor and drive organizer, thank you for the help that you've provided in the past. Volunteering for any organization is a selfless act and it shows character.

As for the issues that you've had, sadly the Red Cross is as susceptible to bad people or concepts as any other organization or business. And, again as with any bureaucracy, sometimes it's hard to do anything to change or identify the problem.

If you really want to get back with the Red Cross then they'd gladly take you and appreciate your efforts. Maybe extend the olive branch to them and see what happens? The behavior of one doesn't constitute the opinon or attitude of the whole group.

Best of luck whatever you decide to do!
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by Mrearp » Sat Feb 07, 2009 2:25 pm

Yale.. Since I know some of the locals from my groups read this.. I'll just say from one RO to another... BTDT and I know how you feel :).

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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by yale » Sun Feb 08, 2009 3:34 pm

AssistncefrmaDstnce wrote: If you really want to get back with the Red Cross then they'd gladly take you and appreciate your efforts. Maybe extend the olive branch to them and see what happens? The behavior of one doesn't constitute the opinon or attitude of the whole group.
I know that things have changed at our chapter but so have things with my situation. As I stated, most of us found other agencies who were begging us to help. My Parish EOC liked Ham Radio and was sending out mailers to every licensed ham in the area and even did a newspaper story on our RACES plan and how we needed more hams to participate.
So when one agency tells you "No thanks" and someone else is saying "Please please" you go where you are wanted.
Things aren't all roses outside of the Red Cross either. Sadly, the increased requirements for EOC volunteers such as IC/NIMS classes, criminal background checks and photo IDs has cut participation to the point that RACES simply has no participation either. The EOC director has no choice in the requirements we face. The federal and state government provide funds which runs the office and they set the standards.
Then there are the problems with availability of volunteers. Many of the same type of person who would volunteer for EOC/shelter duties during an emergency is the person who probably has other commitments.
I'm a good example. While I'm the appointed RACES officer and am trying to recruit and train up volunteers, I now have a hospital job where I'm considered an essential employee during a disaster. During Gustav I was unable to assist my EOC for the first time in years. Sure I was getting paid to be at work but I'm used to being in a shelter when hurricanes make landfall. :(
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by yale » Sun Feb 08, 2009 4:02 pm

Mrearp wrote:Yale.. Since I know some of the locals from my groups read this.. I'll just say from one RO to another... BTDT and I know how you feel :).

Earp
Thanks.
Just to give you some more info, those of us who were the Red Cross Emcomm guys were doing so as members of SouthEast Louisiana REACT which was pretty much made up of members of the Baton Rouge Amatuer Radio Club who wanted to do a bit more public service. Check out an article our president wrote for the REACT periodical - http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopi ... 32&t=40944" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; <-the article is on page 11. Read that and you will see some of the efforts we were involved in.
As you can see, the SELA REACT/BRARC partnership with the Capital Area Red Cross was pretty beneficial to all.
It changed when a new Disaster Services Manager came in and got resistance from these guys-> http://www.qsl.net/ka5jph/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; <- a group of hams who staffed the Red Cross aid stations at LSU home football games.
As I said in an earlier post, I never learned why there was any friction between the Baton Rouge Ham club/REACT guys and the football game hams. The EmComm guys had no interest in working at the football games and the football comm guys have never had any interest in sitting in shelters. Yet they were unable to peacefully coexist.
Politics isn't pretty and has been the downfall of many well intentioned plans.
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by firestorm » Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:36 pm

It is amazing how politics can be amplified in collaborative situations. Throw in a disaster and it escalates to all time highs. We had similar challenges at my Red Cross Chapter. We worked very close with a local ham club. My predecessor then started relying heavily on ARES, which was the new kid. The local club felt ARES was intruding on their turf. Because of issues we stop exercising with Ham and started relying on unreliable communications. Several years later we have neglected partnerships and equipment. This is something I hope to remedy soon.

Raptor brought up a great example on politics during disaster. “RANT ON” Having been an individual who busted his ass off during Katrina/Rita deploying resources. I was very upset when I heard our administration raged because parishes would not let us in. Unfortunate for Red Cross, we always ask permission before responding. This policy is why we had resources in staging areas a week into it. Most NGO’s don’t have the kind of representation we do in state EOC’s or Parish ICP’s. They were able to slip in and set up shop. I’m not critical of the other agencies, I’m critical of the local and state government in Louisiana. I will never respond to Louisiana because of this. “RANT OFF”

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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by Rahjahk » Sun Feb 08, 2009 11:03 pm

Red Cross is a joke. Their medical training is behind the times, American Heart is better.

Seriously, what did you expect from the Red Cross, they are the organization that put out it was taking donations for 9/11 and later told the public (after collecting more money in months than they had in years). "Oh well. SOME of this money goes to 9/11, we'll do with it as we please." The paid folks got raises.

Edit to Add:
Someone apparently thinks I made all this up.

http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/11/06/r ... y.hearing/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The Red Cross has raised more than $564 million for the Liberty Fund, which was set up in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

While the agency states on its Web site that it is spending more than any other relief agency responding to the terrorist attacks, it has distributed only $154 million.
Healy was hammered by one New York official for the Red Cross' decision to put aside nearly half of the money raised for future needs that may include terrorist attacks.

"I see the Red Cross, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars that was intended by the donating public to be used for the victims of September 11 -- I see those funds being sequestered into long-term plans for an organization," testified New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.


Is this dated? Yes. Is it irrelevant? Absolutely not. I did not donate entire PD paychecks to help out folks from a house fire in michigan, I gave for victims of 9/11 be they those of the thin blue line, to firefighters, to the families of those innocents killed. I used to donate yearly to the RC for those general emergencies.

Coincidentally, shortly after the influx of all that cash the ARC paid higher ups got large raises. Just to be clear I am not against folks drawing salaries to run a large org like the ARC, you cannot run it as a part time volunteer doesnt work. But profiteering? No.

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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by aa1pr » Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:01 pm

The ARRL is still trying to work this out but if one does not have any convictions why worry??? It is all the blood sucking lawyers that are making everything so damm hard on the good citizen that wants to help out society. Too many bogus lawsuits from someone inproperly helping another.
Just another greedy son of a bitch organization.

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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by TRIPLE G » Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:26 pm

i didNOT read the whole thread i just wanted to say that the Red Cross treated the workers down at ground zero very very good as also did the Salvation Army !!!!!!
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by Yaivenov » Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:27 pm

Editted for errors, thanks to CTjohn for spotting them.

Sorry, but to reinforce Rahjahk here, I rather take exception to a CHARITY organization who's "President and CEO" gets paid as of 2003, $652,000.

On the flip side the Commissioner for the Salvation Army as of the same time frame gets paid $167,000 for an equivalent job. I'd say that's a far more reponsible management of 3 billion dollars in charity money they take in per year right there..
Last edited by Yaivenov on Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Personal experiance with the Red Cross.

Post by Lenny » Mon Feb 09, 2009 9:49 pm

Just for the record, none of my dealings with the RC during, Katrina/Rita, had anything to do with upper management. I worked down in the trenches with the ground level volunteers. So any of the management grumblings, I saw none of that. I will continue to give blood to RC because they need it. I honestly didn't know they had failed so badly.
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