Many people have asked what it is like being a first responder, especially the team with which I get to work.
Sometimes, like Joplin or school shootings, there is no warning at all. I just get paged to go.
Always, there is very little notice.
That’s another reason you have to be trained and certified before any storms happen: once a storm happens, it is too late to get a pass into the disaster area.
There are many different ways to help and ways to get signed up and certified, but it all has to be done ahead of time.
My team usually notifies me to be “on alert” when severe storms seem to be headed into a four hour radius from which I live.
If we get enough warning of actual tornadic activity, there is kind of a timeline to follow.
The first thing I do is get my own family safe, with our emergency kits and extra equipment for my cochlear implant processors and food and water supplies ready.
I also make sure our battery-generator is fully charged:
That way it is ready if we need it here, but I can also take it in my trunk to charge my processors or phone while on site.
I stay in touch with what is happening with the storm through online connections, social media, and twitter. Here’s the Red Cross response center watching the storm:
This gives me information not just BEFORE it is on the news or tv, but also different information… Like not just where a storm is, but if it has a debris cloud, etc., which helps us prepare for and assess damage:
I also watch the weather at my own home, like noticing the clouds building up high (worse storm) or how the apple trees in my garden start to spin instead of just waving in the wind.
When the storm causes damage so that I know I have to go help, I get a page telling me when and where. If the damage is west of me, I do not go until the storm has passed over me. This is for my own safety and also because I may be needed closer to home.
If the damage is east of me, I leave immediately.
When this is my news, my job is to quickly grab my already packed bag, as well as any water supplies I can bring.
If I have to wait for safety before traveling, like tonight, then I take a good shower, knowing it may be my last one for days.
Then I put on layers of clothes, so that I am warm, with an outer layer of camp or hiking like suit for the rain and hail protection. I also pack gloves and hats because when the storms keep coming, it can be really cold (Joplin was like that). I also put on thick work boots that keep my feet safe in the debris field.
Then by 7pm, my car is packed with food and water and supplies, and I am dressed and ready to go.
Storm’s estimated local (Tulsa) arrival at 720pm.
In the meantime, we sit and do our evening couple’s scripture study.
Because that’s how Mormons roll.
And then, just like that, I am on my way to Shawnee.