What We Did Right After Katrina Noah Morris

Early on we were doing a lot of assessment of what was needed, what resources were becoming available, and how folks could access them. We quickly went about identifying and confirming resources and keeping on top of what information about the resources was changing, often simply by going somewhere and talking to other relief workers who were on the ground. "The phone number we have doesn't work? Let's get some one to stop by and ask them what their phone number is." Low tech solutions paid off in the long run for the benefit of those who crossed our path.

While we were moving around the areas nearest our clinic we did basic health screenings (checking folks blood pressures and blood sugar levels) and on-the-fly health education on how folks could minimize the effects of being off some meds. An example was getting folks to drink bottled water rather than only Gatorade and getting folks to eat less of the Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) since each one contained roughly 100-150% of daily sodium requirements. This helped keep peoples Blood pressure from spiking. The most we were often able to do was listen and console. Other things we were able to do for a while was to travel the distance to the nearest pharmacy (at first a few towns and check points away) to get prescriptions refilled or picked up for folks.

We did the work that needed doing including getting ourselves included in the city wide healthcare meetings so we had a voice at the table and could get info from and access to all levels of the reconstruction of healthcare process.

Compartmentalize where you're trying to work. In Nola after Katrina this looked like some satellite clinics or helping out other organizations in different areas. Don't reinvent the wheel.

Be pragmatic and realize that when you go to provide concrete help to strangers you will end up working with folks you may politically or ideologically detest. Drop your ego and get people the help you came to provide. Those of us who started Common Ground Health Clinic were anarchos but we ended up working with (on limited levels) just about everyone. We may not have liked the Red Cross but we needed to have some sort of relationship for the benefit of our patients.

Don't forget rumor control if you can't verify don't repeat.

Don't get bogged down with things you can't fix. There were all sorts of problems folks were having aside from their medical problems — most of which we couldn't even begin to help with. Don't get stuck — focus on where you can help.

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