Monday, February 11, 2008

on standby

I was contemplating pajamas and a glass of red wine by 8pm tonight. A perfect end to a Monday full of Mondayness. Now I'm sipping green tea and staying dressed because I might have to go back in to work.

The recreation centre where I work is designated as a reception centre in case of an emergency. I'm one of the the city staffers trained to come out to help if I'm needed. Tonight, there's a gas leak in the neighbourhood and my boss just called to say maybe they'll need me. At a reception centre, people who are evacuated from their homes gather, get registered, and are provided with what they need to get through the next few minutes, hours or days. If people can't return to their homes, the Emergency Social Services program arranges hotel rooms and vouchers for meals, clothing, and other immediate needs. It's reassuring to know that the program is there, ready to kick in whatever happens. Most often it's a ...

Oh, there's my phone.

Gotta go. I'll tell more later. I'm called in.

question: I wonder what will happen? (this is my first call-in)

mompoet - going now

UPDATE - 10:20pm

By the time I got to the rec centre around 8:15pm, 500 homes were on the evacuation list. We had to be prepared for 1,000 people. As it turned out, not nearly that many showed up. Some people found other places to stay, or went out for supper to await further news. Those who came to the reception centre were made welcome in our gym and lobby areas. Some emergency volunteers and designated staff were on hand to help. We were able to provide an update: the gas had been shut off, and now workers were checking for any remaining pockets of gas, and venting manholes to ensure safety.

We were pretty sure everyone would go home that same evening, so we served coffee, ordered in pizza, made sure people had a place to rest and answered questions to the best of our knowledge. Had the evacuation gone later we would have stayed and made arrangements for hotels and meals, but by about 9pm, we received word that it was safe to go home. We thanked everyone for their patience, and said goodbye, then had a short de-brief meeting, cleaned up and went home.

My first call-out was low-stress and mostly about waiting and making people feel welcome, comfortable and reassured. Not so bad at all. I admire my boss and the other volunteers and staff with whom I worked. I can see how they (and I) could make a big difference in more serious circumstances.

Now to unwind, debrief a bit more with the family, and find those pajamas. Too late for the red wine, but there will be other nights.

question: have you ever seen an emergency reception shelter?

mompoet - If you ever did, I hope that things were okay for you, and that everyone got to go home soon.

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