Friday, September 02, 2005

Don't Just Change the Channel

The death, destruction and hopelessness in New Orleans and surrounding areas following Hurricane Katrina has dominated the news over the last few days. Videos and photographs show entire subdivisions almost completely underwater, people on their roofs awaiting rescue, the living and injured coexisting amongst the dead, while looting and anarchy prevail.

As is its custom, the great company I work for immediately stepped forward to sponsor the training and deployment of volunteers, supplies and technology. Within 10 minutes of receiving the recruitment email for Red Cross volunteers, I was in my boss' office, asking to be given the time off to go to New Orleans. As an EMT, already trained in large-scale incident management, this was seemingly the perfect opportunity to help.

Unfortunately, my boss couldn't spare the resources for me to be deployed for over a week. Our project is at a critical development point. Our group will be losing two of our members for 2-3 weeks each very soon. If we don't meet our deadlines, we may not have jobs. I was understandably disappointed.

But there still is a chance to do some good. Hurricane Katrina is precisely the type of incident that our product is designed for. It is a communications solution that will help fire, ambulance, police and other agencies to talk to each other. The potential impact is immeasurable. When it is done, it will revolutionize how local, state and federal agencies respond to major disasters. Everyone in my group, including me, believes in it, with every ounce of passion and dedication in their hearts.

If those photographs of the devastation move you, if the images and testimonials on television stir emotion in you, then I challenge you, all of you, to step away from your comfy chairs in your air-conditioned homes. I dare you to close your mouths and open your wallets. I implore you to get out there and do something - anything - to help those people. They need you.

Donate to a reputable charity, like the Red Cross. Give blood. Volunteer your time, either near the scene or at your local charity. Help displaced relatives and friends to find shelter. Don't just change the channel. Don't just close the newspaper. Don't turn a blind eye to the suffering of your fellow human beings. Get out there and do something !!!

Every little bit counts. Every dollar, every pint of blood, every hour of your time makes a difference in the lives of your fellow human beings. What are you waiting for ?

Last night, I circulated flyers around my entire complex, inviting my fellow residents to join me at our city's Community Emergency Response Team training this month. I put my name on the list to help with the Red Cross rollover phone system that my company has just installed at its headquarters. And I am hunkering down at work, likely for most of this long weekend, testing our product and offering 24-hour technical support to the teams on their way to the scene.

Granted, it's not the same as physically being there to man shelters, care for the sick and wounded, and distribute much-needed food and supplies. Some of my ERT teammates (bless them !) have done the Red Cross training and are shipping out this weekend. No matter what the situation, we're all doing our little piece to make a difference.

What about you ?


Anonymous densaer said...

In 1992, I was an 18-year old high school student when the Los Angeles riots broke out, and my city burned. After watching endless live television from around the city, I suddenly found myself numb with the magnitude of the suffering I saw.

It gradually dawned on me that if I just sat there and watched TV, I was part of the problem. At that point, disaster becomes just another drama on TV. I couldn't just sit there and watch this happen. I had to be a part of a solution.

So I went to the local Red Cross office and signed up. I figured that was the way to have an impact on the victims of disaster. More than just my money (of which I didn't have so much), I wanted my time and my work to demonstrate my principles in action.

My first major disaster was the Malibu/Calibasas firestorm in 1993, only a few months after I finished my training.

The Red Cross allows me to help everyone, regardless of class, race, education, etc. which is just what I wanted.

So yea, stay informed as to what's going on. But then take the next step and do something... Even if you can't go onsite, there's many things that can be done.

We are, after all, our brothers' keeper.

September 6, 2005 at 10:14:00 PM PDT  

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