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Hurricane Irma - Florida Keys Deployment

Humanity Road received an activation request from Dr. Alison Thompson with the Third Wave Volunteers. In response we deployed a resource center at the Big Pine Key Flea Market to support Monroe County Florida from September 15, 2017 through September 28, 2017

As of September 28, 2017, the resource center staffed by Humanity Road supported 1,350 local residents with aid information, laptops, voice line services, Internet Service and assistance with locating and signing up for aid

To support its operation, FEMA Tech Sector partner ITDRC provided Humanity Road with a cellular mesh network powered by Goal Zero and included a DISH satellite back up for reliable Internet and voice network services. FEMA Tech Sector partner Google provided ITDRC with additional volunteer staff for onsite to support the operation

A team of eight FEMA staff were collocated onsite with Humanity Road to assist survivors with application questions and registering for FEMA assistance

The Coalition of Hope Foundation Resource Center and Relief operation at Big Pine Key, Florida served more than 12,000 hot meals and distributed 1,000,000 pounds of relief supplies including diapers, toothbrushes, bug spray, sleeping bags, air mattresses, fuel, generators, canned goods, flashlights, batteries, cleaning supplies, coolers, blankets, pillows, clothes, personal care hygiene kits, BBQ grills, buckets, roofing nails, plywood, hundreds of tarps and over 120,000 pounds of ice, and Coalition of Hope member CitiMed provided nearly 100 urgent care health services.

We helped support our VOAD partner Crisis Cleanup by educating the public on registering their needs with the platform. For Hurricane Irma, there have been 12,594 cases opened in Crisis Cleanup. 526 of those cases are in the Keys with 264 of them in Big Pine Key. A total of 126 cases have been completed in the keys. We give a shout out to Team Rubicon who has been manning the phones for Crisis Cleanup. Also a big thank you to the following teams responding and working cases in the keys.

- LDS Church-Fort Myers Stake

- LDS Church-Miami Florida South Stake

- All Hands Volunteers

Deployment Diary – Day 1-2 Staging

There are so many personal stories to be told. Even before we arrived in Big Pine Key, Florida to help with disaster response efforts for Hurricane Irma, the outpouring of support was amazing. We’ll start with Eddie, who works in Kissimmee at the hospital. Seven days after Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida, Cat and I were in the checkout line at Walmart with two full shopping buggies. It would have been quite clear to most people where we were going even if nobody noticed the shirts that said “Humanity Road Disaster Response Team”. One cart was filled with marine grade car batteries, power strips, extension cords and batteries of various sizes. The other with food, case water, Gatorade, cleaning supplies, and various household goods.

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When disaster strikes and we can physically deploy by driving into the location, we just pack the gear in a vehicle. In this case, we needed to first fly into a local area (in this case Orlando) to stage our supplies and transportation and then drive into the affected area. And that leads us back to Eddie. First, he made a donation to offset the purchase of the gear. Then, as we were loading the RV, he pulled up in his car, and gave us what he had in his trunk, including tie downs, clean up rags and more batteries. That was more than anyone would have done, and we were just amazed, but it wasn’t enough for Eddie. “I have a couple of 7 foot folding tables at home, could you use them? It would only take me 10 minutes to get them. He read my mind, we hadn’t yet gotten tables, and were going to try to borrow some from a church in the area. Thank you Eddie, and here is how your tables were used.

Deploying into an area that has been devastated by a hurricane requires a bit of courage, a lot of planning and some plain ole ingenuity. Imagine that you will need to carry absolutely everything you need to survive for two weeks for two people. Then add on to that, everything you will need to support your mission.

In our case, the mission gear are laptops, batteries of all sizes, spare power cords, spare recharging cables, internet signal, phone signal, printer, power strips, copy paper, ink cartridges, pens, tablets, desk (portable metal case with a clip board).

Deployment Diary – Initial Response Day 3-5

It has been three days since we arrived in Big Pine Key Florida to help them survive, sustain and reunite and it feels like two weeks. To see the smiles on the faces of people who walk through and realize that they can get water, canned goods, clothing, a cooked or cold dinner, and cereal and coffee in the morning, is priceless. And then they turn around and see the power strips on the tables, and laptops.

Deployment Diary – By the Numbers – Day 7

Today is day 7 for our deployment here in Big Pine Key, FL. We are based in what was a flea market. There are 2 big Circus Tents. One is for people who move things (donation management and distribution) and the second is the Information tent (and dining hall for public). The HR information center is helping about 200 people (and growing) a day with information needs, sign up for FEMA, find out who to call to get help. Because we came, FEMA deployed 8 FEMA personnel to our HR information center to help the public. They are located next to us in the tent, and we greet people and send them to FEMA if that is what they need. We printed and shared Florida help sheet that our volunteers worked on, many want the same things we post online - where to get ice, tarps, shelter. We have recorded about 40 cases of vulnerable population who need.

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A local resident stopped in to find items on her list of needs. Yes, that is a paper plate. Being organized, determined and creative, local residents are working through their immediate needs.

Deployment Diary – By the Numbers – Day 7

Today is day 7 for our deployment here in Big Pine Key, FL. We are based in what was a flea market. There are 2 big Circus Tents. One is for people who move things (donation management and distribution) and the second is the Information tent (and dining hall for public). The HR information center is helping about 200 people (and growing) a day with information needs, sign up for FEMA, find out who to call to get help. Because we came, FEMA deployed 8 FEMA personnel to our HR information center to help the public. They are located next to us in the tent, and we greet people and send them to FEMA if that is what they need. We printed and shared Florida help sheet that our volunteers worked on, many want the same things we post online - where to get ice, tarps, shelter. We have recorded about 40 cases of vulnerable population who need.

Deployment Diary – Day 9 – Red Cross Arrives

Today, the Red Cross arrived to set up a POD location next to our joint Coalition of Hope Foundation operation. The Blue Roof program moved again, the ground is changing daily and the citizens are having trouble finding all the aid agencies. Many have not even ventured from their homes because of lack of transportation to get anywhere. We're hoping the buses will start again soon to help get citizens from shelters to locations of aid stations.

Deployment Day 10

We received word from Monroe County that the overall Relief Center deployment mission was filled and that we are to stand down. Chris headed out into the field with Sean O'Hanlon with Rescue Warriors on a mission to secure medical kits that could potentially assist the next deployment. Ground resources options are changing daily due to geography and weather conditions.

President, Chris Thompson and Sean  O'Hanlon with  Rescue Warriors

A short video about the Coalition of Hope deployment supporting the Florida Keys.

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In closing, we wanted to write a small thank you note to all of the citizens of Big Pine Key. Chris and I have been responding to disasters for more than twenty years and from the moment we arrived, the people of Big Pine Key warmly welcomed us as part of their family. We came to help provide communications so that the public could get online in the form of a Wifi hotspot, internet café, access to FEMA, and phone calls. We were invited as a member of the Coalition of Hope response team. The geography of the keys and lack of places for those responding to sleep has impacted dramatically what normally happens in response to disaster, this has made the clean up process so much slower. I know everyone is working to the solve the problem. Chris and I just wanted to say thank you for the warm welcome and we wish we could stay with you all longer. We will continue to help in any way we can from our offices in Virginia. If any local services need a wifi hotspot, or any other communications services feel free to send us an email at activate@humanityroad.org. For now, we are sending you all hugs and our love. Hang in there and stay hydrated!