Sunday, September 4, 2011

Irene Day 4: Nursing In The Field

Yesterday I got my first work assignment. I was teamed up with another RN to do what the Red Cross calls community outreach. That just means instead of stationing at an established shelter or other fixed location, we go out and actively search for people who need our services. When anyone has a health need caused by the disaster-- whether a cut finger or a lost walker or contaminated medications, or anything-- our job is to help fix it.

We spent a big chunk of yesterday with large groups. For instance we talked to the command staff for several local fire departments. They're doing great things, feeding dozens or hundreds of people per day and providing supplies and tools for people trying to clean up. They know their residents and neighbors and they were able to direct us where we might be needed. We made a few nursing contacts, and also put the chiefs in touch our Mass Care and Bulk Distribution people.

One of the FD commanders pointed us down a route that had been blocked by a huge landslide until that morning. A single lane is now mostly open. The National Guard was posted at the entrance, turning most people away, but we showed our Red Cross ID and they let us right through.

The town on the other side was in great shape considering they'd been mostly cut off for a week. Their local FD and EMS crews had been keeping them supplied by making runs across the flooded creeks with boats and ATVs. And when we were led to the command post we found it included an impressive outdoor kitchen, completely staffed with volunteers, that was feeding practically all the people in town. Not many residents there needed assistance at all.

But they told us about yet another, smaller area that is still cut off. Every single bridge in has collapsed, except for one that was severely damaged. No vehicle traffic can pass. The only ways in are by small boat or on foot.

800 people are stuck on the wrong side of that bridge. Anyone who is elderly or infirm cannot leave town to see a doctor, or even refill a prescription. They have already needed one helicopter evacuation. That sounded to us like an area with some health needs. So my partner and I packed portable kits and walked ourselves in.

We arranged to meet a knowledgeable resident on the other side of the bridge, and spent the day going door to door.

No comments:

Post a Comment