Friday, May 23, 2008

group lodging

I'm on the ESS (Emergency Social Services) team at work. We're the city workers who are pledged to show up if there's an emergency that has people requiring support. It could be 2 people put out of their apartment by a fire (in which case 1 or 2 people get deployed to help them find a hotel room, clothing etc) or 500 people put out of their homes by a gas leak for an indefinite period or half the city if/when the big earthquake comes. We're supposed to ensure first that our own families are taken care of, then come and help.

There are a bunch of training courses that we take over the months and years so we have some idea of what to do when the need arises. Additionally, our public buildings are already designated and equipped to activate.

Yesterday I spent the day doing "Group Lodging." That's what we do if there's a disaster big enough that we can't find hotel rooms for all of the people who can't go back into their homes. Basically it's how to turn a rec centre into a dormitory and provide beds, sanitation, food and minimal comfort for lots and lots of people. It was an interesting course - very practical. I'm finally getting the feel for the "chain of command" thing and how it's organized. There's a huge list of acronyms (ESS is just one of them) for the different roles, organizational units and programs, which I dislike intensely because it makes things more mysterious. Luckily our teacher spoke in whole words and was very down to earth and friendly and funny. The day went by quickly. So now I know that we need 1 toilet for every 20 people, and a minimum 8 feet by 5 feet for a cot or mat. We focussed a lot on making a makeshift home as comfortable, dignified and homey as possible. The idea is to have people housed for a maximum of 72 hours this way. By that time they should be able to go home, or find someone to stay with. But we recognize that in a giant disaster this limit would be extended.

The last part of the course was questions for unusual situations. We discussed a bunch of "what would you do if..." scenarios. I got the one where 2 people are noticed to be having sex in a cot in the middle of the big room of cots. I got the right answer about how to approach and handle this situation, and someone said, "Yup, ask a woman to handle that one."

I hope I never have to work at group lodging, but if I do, now I'll know what to do. And if a couple of people decide to reassure themselves that life goes on in the most obvious and basic way, I suspect I'll be the one sent in to deal with it. That's what city workers do.

question: did you ever get nominated to a job that you wouldn't choose yourself?

mompoet - ready to help if needed

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