Elizabeth Morse, American Red Cross
Disaster Assessment teams had just returned to the Red Cross Disaster Operations Headquarters in Houston from a day in the sweltering heat, going street-by-street through neighborhoods assessing the amount of damage done at each home. Peg Volgelsang, who has been volunteering as a team with her husband since Hurricane Katrina, was one of the people who had spent the day pounding pavement.
“Floods are the hardest to work on for damage assessment,” Peg remarked. “With flash floods, you can’t see the water lines. There aren’t the debris lines you get with long-term flooding. The water went in and then out.” Peg continues, “I don’t want them to have dirty water in their houses, but it makes assessment easier!”
Disaster Assessment helps the American Red Cross understand the extent of damage done during a disaster. It provides the means for determining how much assistance may be required by each neighborhood.
When Disaster Assessment teams first go into a neighborhood, they are looking for external indications of damage. “We don’t go into the homes,” Peg said. “Without a debris line, you have to say, ‘I don’t see damage,’ even when you know the house had flooding. So we really try hard to find some evidence that flooding occurred.”
The Vogelsangs have split their time between Tyler and Montgomery Counties. In Montgomery County, Peg was assessing homes right along the Spring River. “It was a terrible area,” Peg recalled. “Whole neighborhoods had two to four feet of water. Some places had as much as twelve feet.” Some of the areas that Peg was sent to had been hit multiple times by flooding over the past year. “But in other areas, people said this was the first time ever that they had flooding.”
“I like Disaster Asssessment,” Peg said, “but we usually don’t have a lot of client contact. However, every once in awhile we stop for some reason. Then people come to us. That’s when we can reassure clients that the Red Cross is there and help is on the way.”