Our latest guest blog is by David Otey from the front line of volunteers who responded to the earthquake in Haiti in January. Some people inside Kaiser Permanente remember David from his years as an emergency management specialist. He worked on many projects not the least of which included organizing and directing emergency communications with Kaiser Permanente medical centers within minutes of the 7.1 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989; managing our Regional Emergency Operations Center during the Oakland Hills Firestorm of 1991; directing the Center to support our Southern California Region after the 6.7 Northridge earthquake in 1994. We remember David, now retired, as the project manager who helped us get our Heritage Resources program up and running starting in 2003. David represents a historic commitment among Kaiser Permanente people on the front line of disaster volunteers. He was there in New York City after 9/11 and he was there in Haiti last month. Here’s his report from Haiti:
DMAT CA-6 Deployment to Haiti – January 13–26, 2010
I had an extraordinary experience last month assisting the relief effort in Haiti.
I joined 38 of my Disaster Medical Assistance Team, DMAT CA-6 (www. ca6dmat.org) colleagues as Communications Officer for a medical response assignment in Haiti following the devastating 7.0M earthquake on January 12. We departed Oakland the next day on a red-eye flight to Atlanta, where we met other responding DMAT teams. On Friday, we flew by charter to Port-au-Prince, Haiti and began a several day stay at the U.S. Embassy (camping on the garden lawn) while equipment arrived and security arrangements were finalized.
On January 20, (after a strong aftershock woke us) our team and DMAT NJ-1were assigned to operate jointly and transported to a nearby locality, called Petionville (“Pe-Shun”ville). We were co-located with the US Army’s 1-73rd Cavalry 82nd Airborne Division (what an outstanding group they are!) on a steep hill overlooking what was a golf course in pre-earthquake times but now is home to 30-50,000 Haitians.
I teamed up with two Communications wizards from the NJ-1 team, Mike, KC2GMM and Adam, KC2AEP, to establish field communications for our medical and support staff. Although no amateur radio equipment is utilized, the scene at the “commo” desk sure looked similar (and as cluttered) to “Field Day” setups I’ve seen (see picture). I remarked to my commo colleagues this seemed like a Field Day on steroids! While our medical staff managed treatment tents and formed “strike-teams” to hike and motor into the communities nearby, our commo team assisted in supporting radio, telephone and computer traffic between our field teams and the disaster management team at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.
Once in the field, our joint medical teams treated more than 1000 patients over four days, including to the delight of all, the birth of two babies.
At the conclusion of field work on Sunday, January 24, our team was relieved by DMAT FL-1. The NJ-1 was scheduled to bring them up-to-speed and then rotate out three days later. We travelled back to the U.S. Embassy in Army Humvees for another night before returning to Atlanta for a debrief and team dinner. On Tuesday, January 26, we arrived safely back home.
Witnessing the devastation of Port-au-Prince and the dislocation of thousands of citizens was heart-wrenching. I am proud to have served with my DMAT colleagues and the American Haitian relief efforts. Much more recovery work remains to be done and I hope everyone able will find ways to assist.