Story by Jon Breems
Patricia Hamel, of Traverse City, Michigan, is no stranger to being deployed to national disaster relief operations with the American Red Cross. She says that since 2007 she has been deployed to 15 different relief operations across the country. So it came as no surprise when she was asked to travel to Colorado for several weeks this past October. Flooding in parts of the state had caused widespread damage and the Red Cross was looking to its national network of volunteers for help.
(Photo Credit: Robert Miller)
While the nation may have seen Red Cross workers delivering life-saving food, water, and medical supplies on the front lines of the disaster, Pat’s job was largely behind the scenes and away from the cameras—yet just as important to the residents of Colorado. Her role was as a manager of disaster health services. Disaster Health Services, or DHS, is a department of the Red Cross which works to assess residents’ medical needs in a disaster and replace lost medications and medical supplies.
Pat worked primarily out of the Red Cross relief operation headquarters making sure that the disaster assistance centers where residents could go for help were adequately staffed by Red Cross DHS workers. In addition, she was responsible for coordinating the Red Cross emergency aid stations that were sent out to smaller, more rural communities that had been cut off by the floods.
“My job was to make sure the delivery of services to clients goes smoothly and effectively,” she added.
While being on deployment is nothing new to Pat, she also recognizes the unique challenges and features each relief effort brings to the table.
“They (disaster relief operations) are all very unique,” she observed. “They’re unique to the event that took place. They’re in unique parts of our country and they’re unique to the culture of the local people.”
Part of what made the relief effort in Colorado unique was the spirit of the state’s communities.
(Photo Credit:Robert Miller)
“As we were meeting clients’ needs, we were very impressed the resourcefulness of people,” Pat remarked. “This was…a culture that really reached down to help one another.”
Indeed, it takes one to know one, and Pat surely knows what it means to lend a hand to those in need.