Hurricane Katrina

I have spoken to some friends about my paramedic experience, and thought it would be helpful to add some info about this stuff.

In fall of 2005 I was working for AMR in Victorville and had the amazing privilege to be part of a huge rescue and recovery effort following Hurricane Katrina. We drove 30 ambulances from Riverside to Baton Rouge, where we helped to set up a major “temporary ambulance operation” during the weeks that followed the hurricane. We were there for about 3 weeks. It was a great privilege, and I would say it was a defining experience in my life. I had been a paramedic 10 years and like anyone in EMS that amount of time, I had seen enough to give me nightmares for a lifetime. But being there was different. It was not the normal 911 mode of doing things where there are a few people at a time in the midst of crisis. almost everyone there was experiencing some degree of chaos, or was related to someone who was. I felt like the purpose of my life to help others was just as clear as it has ever been.

The first picture is of me and Phil Titsworth. He was a supervisor for AMR in the Antelope Valley then, and I think he still is. He is a great guy and we developed a pleasant friendship while we were there. We were partnered up the day of this picture. Location: We were in the Omni hotel in the French quarter, and we were detailed to an improvised clinic there. We had a doctor, a nurse, and a bunch of paramedics. Most of the citizens were gone, and the people that remained were mostly relief workers of one kind or another. Police, Fire, Militar, and various workers. So people would come in and we would help with vaccinations, and give all kinds of care….a lot like an urgent care. We did many different things, and each day was often a different “mission.” Some helped with backing up 911 units, some transferred patients to other hospitals, some worked at refugee centers, some helped with search and rescue teams, some helped with body recovery….we did all this and everything in between.

When the water went down and they opened one of the freeways in N.O. we drove through and saw this makeshift “dock.” It was a place where many of the citizens had taken their boats into the water to rescue the stranded. When the water receded they leaned over onto the ground where they were tied up…amazing….

Some lessons I learned:

  1. Texas is a very big state, you just drive and drive and drive, and you are still in Texas.
  2. Don’t count on the government to save you, even when the resources are just a few miles a way. No kidding, things were very disorganized. At one point I was so frustrated I was fighting back tears. In my personal experience, the state of Louisiana should bear the greatest brunt of the blame, right after the personal failure of individuals who ignored warnings..
  3. Listen when you are told to evacuate, and do at least something to prepare yourself for disasters. It is really easy to throw stones at all those idiots in New Orleans isn’t it? But how many of us in Cali, right up the street from the San Andreas Fault are really prepared for the big one. They have hurricanes, we have earthquakes. We should give some thought to preparing for emergencies.
  4. There are lots of great people in America that rise to the occasion during disasters. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of the southerners. I met a doctor who volunteered to go out there and help. She said she had student loans, and a struggling practice, but that she just HAD to go to help the people there. Wow! I saw lots of that and felt humbled to be among so many sacrificial people. I was also very proud of AMR. They have their problems, but in disasters they do the right thing.
  5. I was amazed at the power of God. I saw destruction right in front of me, the news doesn’t compare to seeing miles after miles of destruction.
    Psalm 46:8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
    Who has made desolations in the earth.

I have lots more to say, but this is all for now.