A Day in the Life of a Disaster Action Team Member

Heath Wakelee

At 12:30 am early Wednesday  morning the phone rang and the cheerful but very dreary voice of Debbie Calcote was saying hello.  I recognized her voice immediately and knew that Debbie would only be calling me if she had exhausted all other options.  Sure nuff – that was the case.

OK I said, I’ll go to Woodland…..Woodland??  Michael Reeves from Sacramento was my partner and he arrived about 1:05 am, 10 minutes before me.  He had called me and said that the location had no fire equipment and no clients.  “Holed on” I said, I’ll be there in 10 minutes and I was.

The street was wet and outside both the front and back doors there was evidence of burned debris being thrown out.  The smell of smoke was fresh but no clients and no fire department…..so I called Debbie.  No contact info for the clients who said that they would stick around and wait for us.  Which they did not.

Fortunately (use of that word is debatable) for Debbie – she had just received another request for a DAT response to Knights Landing.  “Where is Knights Landing” I said and Debbie said “I don’t know.”  Great…I’m thinking it is down in the delta somewhere…..so I punched the address into my navigation system and fortunately it said that the address was only 20 minutes away.  It was now about 1:30 am when Michael and I headed to Knights Landing.

We arrived at about 2:00 am to find a single woman standing near her burned out mobile home.  Temperature about 35°F.  Luckily the trailer park manager allowed us to use her tiny office to do the paperwork.  Our client’s  options were few so we helped her with lodging, food and clothing, comfort kit and well wishes.  We do not carry street sheets for every county nor lists of hotels and perhaps we can put that on the web somewhere so it would be accessible to anyone in need (or perhaps it is already available and I just don’t have the info).

We departed at 3:00 am and I was home at 4:00 am to enter the paperwork and hit the sack by 5:00 am this morning.  Sleep was compromised because the house was very, very cold – turns out the heating system went out and the temperature outside was a cool 34°F.  Fortunately is was only in the low 60s inside.  Long story short – heater repair is now scheduled for tomorrow – Thursday.  Burrrr.

Very glad that we were able to help the one client.  Hopefully She is sleeping somewhere warm tonight.   Our electric blankets will be on high.

My very best to all …. and to all a good night.

In the Eyes of a DAT Volunteer

Photo Credit: Heath Wakelee
Photo Credit: Heath Wakelee

Just when you though that Placer County would NEVER get another DAT call it happened early this morning.

At 1:30 a.m. the phone rang. It was our Disaster Program Manager (DPM) Tami Martin. Poor telephone connection but we finally communicated. I had been deep in sleep so it took me awhile to get dressed – out the door at 1:45 headed for the back hills of Auburn. Tami invited some others to respond and Arry Murphy said yes! OK – we were a team. I was pleased that Arry said yes. She had only limited experience with 901s, even less with CAS2.0 or DCSOps. But, when given a task, she plows ahead and asks good questions. Dependable, reliable, accurate, smiles, laughs, doesn’t take herself too seriously, all great attributes.

At 2:30 a.m. I finally arrived at a very busy scene. Probably 8 fire trucks all with flashing lights were easy to see once I got close to the address. I found the incident Commander and he pointed out one of the occupants (the wife). As is typical the front yard was strewn with household items that the firemen had been able to salvage.

The fire started in the garage of the one story ranch style home then quickly spread to the attic and across the whole home. After the fire reached the other end of the home, where the bedrooms were located, the home had filled with smoke and the smoke alarm finally went off. It certainly saved this family of three plus their four animals (1 dog, 3 cats). By the time the fire department reached this remote home, it was fully engulfed.

Arry and I learned that the family would stay with friends and that they had structural insurance so we provided them with food and clothing allowances plus comfort kits. The 7-year-old daughter was well behaved, but it looked like she would sleep for a week once she finally got into a bed.

We left at 4:00 a.m. with CAC card authorized and the clients very appreciative of our support. My take home… the mother’s smile. Genuine, sincere, caring, grateful. It was a good night.

I fell asleep at 5:30 a.m. after driving home, eating a toasted English muffin with peanut butter and finishing the paperwork.

For other DAT volunteers, if you have not done so already, ask about how to put your availability into DCSOps. If your not in DCSOps we don’t know about your availability. Need help, just ask. PLACER DAT ROCKS!!!

Best Regards, Heath Wakelee American Red Cross Volunteer Placer DAT Team Captain