I Wish You’d Been There

April 22, 2014

I really wish you had been with me in the mayor’s office.

I was in Darrington, Washington, the small logging town hit hard by the March 22 mudslide that destroyed much of the nearby community of Oso. The slide buried about a mile of the highway connecting many of the 450 families in Darrington with their jobs, their grocery shopping and even the shipments to and from their lumber mill.

Though I wasn’t there on vacation, I did enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

On disaster assignment for the American Red Cross, I went to city hall with our district operations manager to talk about our work in the community. When we entered his office, the mayor rose from his desk stacked high with papers and gave us a hearty handshake. He wore a ball cap and flannel shirt – just what a Midwesterner like me would expect to find in a lumber town quietly tucked away high in the Northern Cascades. A faint smile on his unshaven face, however, failed to mask the strain of his mayoral duties.

“Initially we had concerns about giving up space,” he said, referring to the many outside groups that came wanting to help. That’s a typical response from those living in rugged, close-knit and self-reliant communities. “The Red Cross is neutral and I appreciate that,” he said. “Your work here has been stellar.”

While pleased to receive the compliment, I pushed to uncover unmet needs where we could help. “What advice would you give to us at the Red Cross?” I asked. (Here’s where I especially wish you’d been with me.) Without hesitation, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Keep taking good care of my people.”
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Understanding the Four Phases of Disaster Recovery

January 27, 2010

Here at the American Red Cross, our role changes through different phases of disaster relief. All relief efforts—regardless of the disaster size—transition through four distinct phases. Anticipating how a relief effort will unfold helps us better serve those affected by the disaster.

Each stage of recovery demands a specific type of public affairs response. (In case you’re unfamiliar with that term, “public affairs” is used by the military, government agencies and the American Red Cross to describe public relations, communications and media relations.)

The American Red Cross recognizes that our disaster relief unfolds in the following stages:

  1. Heroic Phase.
  2. Honeymoon Phase.
  3. Disillusionment Phase.
  4. Reconstruction Phase.

What happens in each phase? What should we anticipate as each unfolds? How do public expectations change? How should our communications strategy shift in each phase? Read the rest of this entry »


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