Saturday, September 27, 2008

Vote The Bums Out

I didn't watch the presidential debate. I figured it was going to turn out to be a "bash fest" with both candidates blaming our current troubles on the other guy and accusing the other of not having a good plan to solve all of our problems. Two real issues are: both candidates are part of the cause of our problems and neither one of them seems to understand that government is not the solution to our problems.

Both candidates have been in congress for many years. What have they done up to this point to fix our problems? Not a thing. They are a part of a group of 600-some-odd people out in Washington who have no concept of reality as it is for us "regular folk." They pass idiotic laws which do no one any good and they don't take care of the things they're charged to. That's both of them, not just one or the other. Republicans and Democrats have had their turns as president and congressional majority and what have they done? All they've done is make things worse with stupid regulations and wasted money - all of which costs you and me a too large part of our hard-earned wages.

I believe in this country. I spent the better part of my adulthood serving and protecting her. I've been privileged enough to see other countries first hand and learn about a great many more. Of all the nations in the world we have the most potential for regular folks to make a good life for themselves by working hard and taking care of their own. Unfortunately, the entrenched parties have long led us down the path of socialism - a system which is proven to be an absolute failure everywhere it's been or is still being tried. Freedom for the masses is what this country was founded on and made this country great, and that's the principal which can make this country great again.

I understand government is necessary for a well-ordered society. But government can become too bloated and ineffective and not serve the people. Our Founding Fathers were very, very wise when they drafted our Constitution creating a government limited in its scope and power. If we would stick to those basics, we'd all be better off.

Some reading this will think me naive, but I don't believe I am. I know we can't have utopia on Earth, but if we go back to the basics of the Constitution with limited government leaving us alone except as outlined in that document we would at least be going in the right direction. Reversing the tide of bloated government, pork-barrel politics and entitlements will be hard work. But it's just as worthy of our hard work as fixing the banking crisis, the energy crisis, etc.

This election, I'm really stuck on whom to support. I don't even have a "voting against the other person" or "lesser of the two evils" choice this time around. Therefore, my voter platform this election is "VOTE THE BUMS OUT - ALL OF THEM."* 

Naive? Maybe I really am. Irregardless, I know I'm tired of the same old horse manure coming from Washington and I don't think anyone running for office has any intention of stopping the flow during their watch.

* I know we can't technically vote the president out of office since he's leaving and we're choosing a new one. But, we can vote against the two entrenched parties and let them know we're tired of the same old business.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hurricane Ike After Action Report to CERT

Here are some excerpts from my after-action report to the CERT president regarding my observations while working in the hurricane shelter:

Timeline

September 11th was rather chaotic, somewhat reminiscent of the events we commemorate that day from 2001. I was contacted late that morning by Mary and Martha requesting as many people as could be at the Fair Grounds at 2pm. There was a little confusion which was cleared up later that only some needed to be at the 2pm meeting. Considering the last-minute rush of finding out people were coming and when, this is understandable. Mary and Martha did a great job of sorting things out and getting information to me about what was needed later that day. I quickly got my assignments worked out and was ready to go.

I arrived at the shelter at 6pm September 11. I met Lee at the back of the building, and he started to show me around. I spent some time trying to find the sign-in sheet I was told to make sure I documented my time on. While working that out, a bus with new arrivals pulled up at the front of the building and I spent the next hour or so assisting people (mostly carrying their luggage) off the bus and into the reception area of the shelter. Things were a bit chaotic, which, again, was completely understandable. However, the chaos had an organized flow to it and I don't believe it hampered getting people into the building and settled into a spot inside after inprocessing. Staff and volunteers were thinking on their feet and adapting to the situation quite well.

I ran into Michael after helping with the ingress of the bus passengers. He had already been there for a time and knew where the sign-in was in the clinic area Memorial Hospital (MH) had set up and whom to speak with to get further instructions. Once inside Michael and I made ourselves available and told those who were dealing with the medical screening we were there to help. They were willing to accept our assistance and quickly found things for us to do to assist the patients and get them settled in. We were kept very busy until about 9pm when things started to settle down. It was nice we were included in the meetings among the MH staff to update everyone on the status of the overall situation from the EOC as that helped give us a good picture of how the shelter fit into the larger scheme and how we could better help the patients staying at the shelter.

Upon my arrival on September 12 I found things had, for the most part, settled into a routine. Patients were still arriving who needed screening and settling in, but there were not nearly as many as the day before. I assisted the doctors, nurses and social workers from MH as they took care of the needs of patients. One particular gentleman arrived that evening who appeared to have been homeless. He had been stuck on buses for hours and had wet himself, but refused to shower. One of the social workers convinced him to clean up. Two of the firefighters on duty and I assisted in getting him cleaned up and settled in.

Many of the patients were glued to storm coverage on one of the TVs which had been set up in the two recreation rooms. My heart really went out to them as they watched what was going on. I'm sure it added a lot to their stress levels, which were already high just from being uprooted from their homes and sent to an unfamiliar place. Still, most of the patients were in good spirits, all things considered. I only noted one or two who were on bad temper and/or uncooperative

The routine was firmly settled in and things were running very smoothly upon my arrival at 11pm on September 13th. I spent the night assisting the nurses to conduct rounds and assist people who needed assistance to the rest rooms. We jokingly called making rounds "Oxygen Bottle Patrols" as one of our duties was to make sure everyone on O2 had a serviceable bottle. The time went by very quickly as we were kept busy for the most part.

My next shift on September 19 was fairly easy. By this time many of the patients had been moved out of the shelter and there were only a few who needed attention. I helped assist on trips to the bathroom and making rounds to make sure everyone was doing well. The only real incident during this time was that someone was smoking in the rest room. We didn't catch the person, but it did remind me of a funny story about a nun always on the patrol for smokers in my high school.

September 20 was rather slow. There were very few special needs patients still in residence and they were eager for the scheduled departure the next day. There were a few trips to the rest room and one person (who was not listed as a special needs patient) who was sent to MH ED with chest pain. Otherwise, my time there passed without incident.

Observations

I was very impressed with the clinic the staff from MH set up. On Thursday, I asked how long they had been working on the area set aside for them to use. When they told me they rolled in just the day before and got it ready, I was astounded. Although it was not to be compared to the hospital itself, they were well-supplied, had phone and data networks installed and plenty of people to take care of the tasks at hand. One nurse commented there had been talk of setting up a semi-permanent presence in the building for just such events in future. I think this is a great idea.

The folks from the city did a great job, too. Again, it wasn't the best of situations, yet they managed to make the place quite livable and rather comfortable from my point of view. The staff from the city kept the place very clean and sanitary. The recreation rooms were well-stocked and set up. I'm not sure if the food was donated or purchased, but it was a very good idea to have the local restaurants prepare the meals. Good food can make an otherwise difficult experience quite a bit nicer.

One thing I would suggest: If this building is to be used as a shelter again, more handicap-accessible restroom facilities would be very good. The one major problem I saw was the difficulty for mobility-challenged people was getting into and out of the rest rooms. Another set of more permanent shower facilities (also handicap-accessible) would also be a huge plus.

I heard very few complaints from any of the patients I had contact with. Quite the opposite, many were very complimentary of the care and attention they received. Considering the circumstances, I would not have been surprised to hear more complaints. I heard many, many "thank you's" and compliments. It was very gratifying to know the hard work and effort put into the shelter was appreciated.

Lastly, the amount of volunteer time put in at the shelter was astounding to me. At first, I thought those from MH were "on the clock" for their time at the shelter. My admiration for them all greatly increased when I found they were volunteering their time, too. It really does show what a great community we live in.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Another Shift At The Shelter

I did another four hours at the hurricane shelter last night. I was on from 10pm until 2am, so things were relatively quiet. I helped some folks to get around and kept my eye on things.

Many people who were there last week were able to leave. Some got to go home, but others moved to shelters closer to their homes. I can imagine that would be frustrating for them; moving from one shelter to another and not being able to go back to familiar surroundings. The other shelter in our town is closing, so the people remaining there will come to our shelter this afternoon. It'll probably be a little busier when I'm there tonight.

The most exciting thing was trying to track down the mystery smoker who lit up in the bathroom. I went into the men's room to take care of some business and I could smell the smoke very strongly. Whoever it was, I just missed him.  The shelter supervisor looked around, but he didn't find anything amiss. He sprayed to get rid of the smell, but that's all he could do.

It took me back to high school (yes, it was a long time ago). Sr. Evangeline was a nun on a mission: teach kids about Herman Melville and Nathanial Hawthorne and catch kids smoking in the school. There were a few times when I was in the boys' room when she would burst in and yell, "OK! Who's smoking in here?" Thankfully, I was never caught in one of these surprise raids, but she did manage to rack up an impressive record of "busts."

One day, my friends and I were in the library during lunch - probably doing homework for our afternoon classes we should have done at home. All of the sudden, Sr. Evangeline burst through the door with her usual abruptness, yelling: "OK! Who's smoking in here?"

I don't remember if it was I who was brave enough to ask, or whether it was one of my friends. But, as she hurried around the room looking for errant cigarette smoke, one of us asked, "Sister, who would be stupid enough to smoke in the library? They'd surely be caught in here." As I recall, her answer was something about stupid, spoiled kids doing things they're not supposed to and ruining their lives.

The teachers' lounge was right next to the library. In those days, the teachers were allowed to smoke in the building, in the teachers' lounge. Often there would be a cloud wafting out of the room when someone entered or exited. Some other brave kid asked Sr. Evangeline if perhaps she was smelling the smoke coming from there. No, it had to be a kid in the library.

Of course, I digress. I had to chuckle to myself as I thought about her bursting into the boys' room looking for criminal tobacco use.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricane Shelter - Night 2

Last night in the shelter was a little slow, but that's probably a good thing. Most of the folks staying were glued to the TV watching the news coverage of the storm. My heart really went out to them as they worried about their homes and loved ones left behind.

There were a few things to do, though. We helped one gentleman who had some trouble getting around shower up and get some newer clothes. There was also some toting and lifting to do, as well as helping some get around the building.

One thing I learned that astounded me was that all the folks from the hospital running the clinic were volunteering their time, too. I had they impression they were on the clock, but I was quite wrong. Their esteem went way up in my eyes, and I told them so.

I had a discussion with the nurse who coordinated things at the shelter. We spoke about what a great city we live in where people from all walks of life come together to help out those in need. I agree wholeheartedly.

I'm not sure when my next shift will be as I haven't heard from the CERT leaders yet. I will call them if I don't hear anything by lunchtime. If I'm back and I have the chance I'll post some more live blogs on Twitter.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Working In A Hurricane Evacuation Shelter

Last night I spent 4 hours volunteering at a shelter set up for people evacuating the Texas Gulf Coast in anticipation of Hurricane Ike hitting land. The shelter I was assigned to was one specifically set up to take in those whose medical problems require professional monitoring.

First thing as I arrived we helped folks off a bus which brought them to the shelter from the central check-in point. Some of them had been stuck on busses since early morning and hadn't eaten nor had much to drink. We assisted those with limited mobility with the help of their family members, through the check-in process and a quick medical screening.

The local hospital set up a clinic in the building the previous day. They took some of the supplies and equipment they set aside for mass casualty situations to stock and outfit the area they were assigned to. I and another EMT member of our CERT helped the doctors and nurses where we could, mostly just running people and things from place to place. I have to say, the hospital folks did a great job in setting up and getting going. I was impressed by their preparedness and professionalism.

I stayed until 10 PM. I'll be there again tonight and probably through next week. Depending on how hard Ike hits, there might be folks in the shelter for a while if the power is out for an extended time in their home towns.

I had a chance to "live blog" via Twitter a few times yesterday. If I have a chance, I'll do it again tonight. You can follow my Twitter reports on this page (on the left) but it's a lot easier to follow if you follow me at www.twitter.com/kb5nju.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Baton Rouge Needs Tarps - You Can Help

Shawn Wallace, one of the people I follow on Twitter, made an appeal for tarps to assist the folks in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. If you wish to assist, check out his blog entry here: http://shawnw.org/baton-rouge-needs-tarps-can-you-help/

I got to spend some time in Baton Rouge on a business trip. During my time there, I got to check out one of the libraries in town which had a huge French/American genealogy collection. Genealogy is another of my hobbies, and it was absolutely fabulous to do some research there. Normally evenings on business trips can be somewhat boring, but I had a great time getting some fantastic food and some great research.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Alabama "Fat Tax" Brings Back Memories

Alabama Plans to Tax Fat Employees to Recoup Insurance Costs

This reminds me of my days in the Army. The Army had their own version of the "Fat Tax," though their remedy was to discharge those who could not make their weight. In my day, I was fighting heredity and too much pizza and beer and had to constantly work out and run to keep under weight. There were those times when I didn't make it and had to have a "tape test" done. The Tape Test was a way of measuring body mass index. Being overweight and over the BMI was a bad thing.

I remember back in the 80's while stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, every so often on a Monday while we were working in the motor pool, the squadron commander came on one of this "Fat Safaris." He'd ride, standing up in the back of a Jeep hanging on to a roll bar, with some poor duty person driving and the sergeant major in the front seat. He'd scout around, and when he spotted someone he thought was too fat, he'd yell, "There's One!" The driver would go to where the CO pointed and they'd round up some poor person to take them back to the headquarters and weigh them, doing a tape test if needed.

It got to the point where when they saw the Jeep coming, the overweight ones would crawl into or under vehicles to avoid the humiliation of being caught in the "round up." Looking back on it now, though, it seems rather comical. The picture in my head makes me laugh. It wasn't the humiliation of those caught up in it, but the commander who had little else to do than to ride around the post looking for people to weigh.

My opinion of the Alabama situation? I can understand wanting to recoup what they consider money lost to a "lifestyle choice" but I think they're going about it the wrong way. Making smokers pay more for insurance is one thing - they can always quit. But some people can't help how much they weigh. I wonder if they won't spend more money on lost time and wasted energy making people jump through bureaucratic hoops to prove they can't lose weight. It's probably better left alone - or rethought out.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Charities We Support

Here's the list of charities we support. I invite you to check out their web sites and learn if there are any you'd also like to help: