Red Cross Disaster Services Technology
- Category: EmComm/Disaster Relief
- Written by Blake Raab (N4BWR)
In pursuit of my state ARES badge, I managed to stumble upon a volunteer opportunity that I think will be perfect for me. One of the requirements for the state ARES badge is either a background check or a Red Cross volunteer ID.
I'd made some halfhearted attempts to see what it would take to get a background check, including sending an email to the address on the county sheriff's website, which I think is only there for decorative purposes. Then somewhere (I don't even remember where anymore), I saw that the Red Cross was looking for Blood Donor Screeners to take temperatures at their blood drives to screen for Covid-19. I signed up. Shortly thereafter, I got an email encouraging us screeners to become more permanent volunteers. I responded and said I was interested, and added that I was also an amateur radio operator and would like to be noted as such in their system. She thanked me and told me she would put me in touch with someone in Disaster Cycle Services. I was intrigued, so I Googled it.
Disaster Cycle Services is a whole framework of operations, modeled on the Incident Command System, that helps individuals and families "prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters". One of the pieces of that framework, in the Logistics Section, is Disaster Services Technology. DST includes four activities: Networking, Communications, Computer Operations, and Customer Service. When the Red Cross begins a Disaster Relief Operation, and through the whole process, they're going to need a whole infrastructure of networked computers with broadband connectivity, smart phones, tablets, IP phones, and radios, and they're going to need people to provide support for the whole operation. That's Disaster Services Technology in a nutshell.
So I've started taking online courses to prepare me for this. At the time of this writing, I'm sitting at 19.5 volunteered hours taking courses and being a Blood Donor Screener. I've been assigned a GAP (Group/Activity/Position, basically a job title) in all four of the previously mentioned activities within DST. In the age of Covid, most of the DST work is done virtually, but that may change soon. At some point, my phone will ring, or I'll get an email, and I will need to have a bag packed very shortly. My instructors have said that you are often on a flight out (or a drive, depending on the distance) the next day. Not knowing exactly what to expect, but knowing that I will be supporting an operation that will provide relief to people who desperately need it can only be described as terrifyingly awesome.