Here we sit in the comforts and confines of our own abodes and protected environs watching this staggering and mind boggling epic event unfold from our flat screen TV and online computer. All the while hundreds of thousands these poor souls are experiencing first hand, this horrific turning point in their lives and not even having one second to stop and think about how this will alter or regretfully even terminate so many of their lives.
There comes a time when we just need to cast all that’s important to us aside and take a moment to appreciate and reflect on just how lucky we are. Most if not all the folks who read this post have never had to experience the trauma, disaster, loss of life and limb, terror, chaos and misery to the likes of what we are currently witnessing happen to so many hundreds of thousands perhaps millions of fellow human beings all in one fell swoop.
As a business owner and a general contractor who knows how to build things, organize and delegate manpower and expedite and facilitate large scale projects and operations I felt it my responsibility some 25 years ago to reach out to my fellow man and lend a helping hand in times of crisis. So after a series of pretty catastrophic seismic events in Southern California in the 80’s I made a decision that I would do whatever I possibly could in times of crisis to help others.
Our disaster response crews were not first responders because those were the folks that searched for survivors and saved lives or tried to recover those less fortunate. However, once the search, rescue and recovery phase of the mission was over they (FEMA, local, state and federal OFFICES OF EMERGENCY SERVICES (OES), INSURANCE COMPANIES etc.) would then call upon folks like us to begin the grueling task of clearing and removing the rubble, demolishing and removing damaged and destroyed structures, site preparation and eventually the rebuilding process of their respective communities.
In our case “community” meant “trailer parks”, “mobilehome parks”, “manufactured home developments”, etc. It seems as though God and Man has always placed “transportable dwellings” in the path of disaster prone areas. Be they fire, flood, tornado, hurricane or earthquake you always hear about the gazillions of trailers and mobilehomes that were damaged and/or destroyed. But be that as it may that was the way it was and somebody had to deal with it. So I put a team of good men, tools, equipment and materials together and mobilized from one disaster to another for almost 25 years.
If we weren’t working in the landslides and floods of Santa Barbara in the late 80’s, an earthquake ravaged area like Northridge from ’94-’97, huge fire losses in San Diego in early 2000’s or the “Fearsome Foursome” series of hurricanes in Florida, one of which was “Charlie” from ’04-’06, we just didn’t feel like we were doing our share. It’s easy to take the line of least resistance and cherry pick the good and/or fun projects and go home to your family and a warm meal every evening. But it was quite another ball game to pack your backpacks and tool boxes, buy some extra parts for your trucks and a few extra spare tires, and port you and your crews right in the middle of all hell breaking loose. Such was the way it was for me and my guys for a long time. But I don’t regret one single day of that experience.
I’ll never forget the appreciation the residents of one very poor trailer park we were working in had for our men. Within a few days after the 1994, Northridge Earthquake hit Southern California we had mobilized over 160 men to the zone and set up in about 14 trailer and mobilehome parks to begin the arduous task of re-setting, leveling and bracing thousands of trailers, mobilehomes and manufactured homes that had “Pancaked” (fallen flat to the ground).
The Red Cross was literally providing “3 hots and a cot” (three meals a day and military issues of US Army Cots and tents) for folks that lost everything. Our guys were working feverishly 24/7 trying heroically to get these homes reset and inspected so the residents could re-habitate their modest homes and get back to the task of putting the rest of their very meager and humble lives back together.
Most of these folks were poor and many were elderly and even invalid. But I will never forget the day the Red Cross came cruising in with their “Meals On Wheels” Van for their daily dinner call for the residents of the park. Now mind you this particular Red Cross Mission was for the disenfranchised and homeless folks that had lost everything not for the workers trying to get these folks back into their homes.
Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was for the van to feed the residents not the workers. Well, this scene brings tears to my eyes some 15 years later every time I think about it. The line was very long, probably 50 to 75 hungry residents waiting for dinner which was the biggest and best meal of the day and certainly the one every resident looked most forward to. What they did I’ll never forget.
While our guys were working away one of the residents, in a wheel chair I might add, strolled up to the front of the line and stopped everything dead in its tracks. I didn’t hear the conversation because I was across the street but all of a sudden I heard clapping and cheering and the next thing I saw was the old guy in the wheel chair going up to one of my guys and telling him to drop his tool belt and go to the head of the line. Then all of the other residents who were standing in line stepped aside and started waving all of my guys on to pass in front of them. They were hungry, homeless and displaced souls but yet they still had the presence of mind to share what little they had.
I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life that day. It doesn’t really matter how much money we have or for that matter don’t have or how big our home is. It’s really all about people and what they have to give. In this case all they had to give was their place in line so that the young men who were spending time away from their families trying to help them get back into their homes could have a warm meal.
So let us never forget all of these images and faces of desperation and hopelessness that we see every day on or TV’s as we sit smugly and snugly cuddled up on our favorite easy chair or sofa. This is not a movie or a play. This is real and this could happen to any of us anytime and anywhere. No matter where we live we are vulnerable to the whims of Mother nature.
My advice to family, friends, neighbors and my fellow Americans is to be prepared because if, God forbid, disaster should ever strike your neighborhood and you are not prepared you may be one of those faces being seen by folks snuggled up to their TV’s watching you suffer and scramble for food, water, blankets and medical supplies. But if you’re one of the lucky ones I hope you remember that old man in the wheel chair that waved all those workers to the head of the line.
I really love America but most of all I really love Americans.
The following links are local and national Emergency Response services and First Responders. Might I suggest that you take a little time to familiarize yourself with the local and national agencies in your geographical spheres of influence should you ever have a need for them. Naturally there are also local fire, rescue and law enforcement agencies in your respective areas. However, remember that immediately following a disaster these local services soon become inundated with emergency response and then regrettably things turn into pandemonium and it becomes a panic driven free for all. So take the time to prepare yourself for any potential disaster. You must be self-sufficient for at least one week and that's only if you don't have emergency medical needs.
If you're looking for an experienced Disaster Response contractor who is willing to travel anywhere in the USA to help victims of catostrophic events please feel free to contact: