Monday, September 18, 2006

Disaster Management Weekend Part 1

Right – where do I start!

I’ll start with the journey down, that was going really well until the M1 where I was stuck in traffic for ages, and having left later than planned, I was panicking a little bit!! Eek! But it all cleared up and after a while I was back on track. I stopped off briefly at Chievely Service station to check in with the Parents and them know I was safe, and then headed back onto the M4 – but succeeded in going the wrong way down the M4!!! 20mins later, I had managed to find and exit, turn around and head back the right way. Then I managed to find my way to Bramley – where the weekend was taking place, and eventually made it to the training area.

Before I had left, I opened my secret memo which told me that I was part of an Emergency Response Team being deployed to Bukastan, to a city called Dan, where there had been an Earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter Scale. We were part of the logistics team, so would see relatively little of the actual crisis zone. We were in charge of organising who needed what, and getting it out to the right people. Things like tents, medical kits, sanitation kits etc….So when I arrived at the Training Area, I was greeted at the gate by a guy asking if I was there for an earthquake!!! I drove up the road to the base, and unloaded my gear. Then I had a meeting with Claire who had been organising the fundraising side of things. I handed over the £545 that people had very kindly donated. I also had to hand over my mobile phone at this stage – my lifeline!!!! I didn’t actually miss it as much as I thought I would!

After all the admin type stuff was out of the way, I was given an information pack, which gave us information about the city of Dan, and the surrounding areas, the population, and climate, and political status etc, and then also some info about the Red Cross and Red Crescent…it was all a bit much to take, and everyone just ended up chatting to each other, and getting to know one another. Then when everyone had arrived, we sat down and had some brief talks about the situation, and the red cross etc, and were introduced the various staff members. We were still not told what to expect from the weekend…then we were split into 4 teams of either 4 or 5, and introduced to our Team Leaders, who would be looking out for us over the weekend, and helping us if we were a bit stuck. We introduced ourselves to our little group, and said a bit about what we do now, and where we’ve been, and where we found about the weekend. Then we were given our first update on the situation in Dan, before our deployment later on, and we then had to write a report back to Geneva as to what the current situation was, and what supplies we would be needing, and things like that. We then had a quick talk from a guy called Richard who is a REAL LIFE member of the ERU Team. He showed us some slides and things of when he was deployed to Bam, the city in Iran that was flattened by a horrendous Earthquake on Boxing Day of 2004. You might remember the photos of their ancient citadel that had been standing for about 3000 years, that was totally ruined in about 15minutes….it was so interesting to hear about what he did, and the help he, and other ERU teams provided. Then, after that we were shown to our accommodation – hhhmmmmm. It was totally dark as it was about 10.30pm at this stage, and so all we had were our little torches. Following our Team leader Scott, we were taken to this huge empty warehouse type building. There was a large empty room, with smaller (better sized) rooms off the side. We were given air beds and pump, which is more than I was expecting. So once we had found our little room, we worked out where we would all sleep, got into our Jim Jams and sat around talking about our first update, and the kinds of things we might be doing the next day. I think we all eventually stopped talking and fell asleep around midnight ish. I managed to have a fairly decent night sleep – I think that’s where all the camping came in handy. I’m used to noisy sleeping bags, and rustling air beds. But also, because we were based on a military training ground there were apparently all kinds of strange noises all night. As I say – I didn’t hear a thing! I was shattered, having been working on Thursday night at the restaurant, and then on Friday morning too.

However, we were RUDELY awoken at 6.30 on Saturday morning. We dressed and made our way over to the main camp, where we offered delicious fried eggs to make sandwiches with, or really really good porridge. So we ate that, and then sat down in our groups to go over our second update from Dan. We then had to write another report back to Geneva with all the updated figures, and requests for more supplies and things. Then we had a talk about the ideals of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and what they mean, and what the delegates who work for them have to do to uphold the fundamental principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. That bit was really interesting, as we learnt about the various sections of the organisation and what each one does. We also played a bit of a game type thing. The guy giving the talk stuck two bits of paper on opposite walls of the room. One said Totally Acceptable and the other said Totally Unacceptable. We had to put ourselves into the mindset of a soldier, and then give our opinions on various statements that he read out. Things like: ~ Shooting a 12 year old boy in the rebel militia coming towards you with the rest of his group holding a gun. IE…is it acceptable to shoot a 12 year old? And then: ~ Making a Prisoner of War clear a minefield that he and his Army had laid? Knowing that he could blow himself up… was interesting to see how people differed in their views.

No comments: