Monday, September 8, 2008

From Fay to Hanna to Ike

We are still in Florida, now at an undisclosed location in Orlando about 15 miles from our last spot, which I can now reveal was the Osceola Heritage Park (OHP), an event center involving an arena, an exhibit hall, and a ballpark where the Houston Astros do their spring training, as well as some minor league fields, horse barns, and various other facilities.

The OHP was very good to us, donating most of the space we used. Management unlocked one of the 50-amp RV pedestals for Odyssey, and we were quite comfortable there, a short walk from the events building where headquarters was located. They even arranged tickets for us to the Three Dog Night concert held in the arena on the 4th, however we worked right through it and could not attend. We did have to move, at one point, from the large exhibit hall into a smaller meeting room in the same building to make room for the Home Show -- fortunately, they had allowed us to locate our server in their telecom room, so we only had to move patch cables around.

As were were winding down the relief operation for Fay, Hanna appeared on the charts. Given the number of Red Cross personnel already on the ground in Florida, the Disaster Operations Center (DOC) elected to keep some folks in-state; I got the call on Wednesday asking if I could go to a new operation starting somewhere between Orlando and Jacksonville for Hanna. The kicker would be that Louise would have to remain behind on the Fay operation until it closed -- there were only four of us left at that point, and our manager Laurie was not about to give up two of her staff. Louise would join me in a few days, after the last of the Fay equipment was shipped.

Louise and I had a brief discussion about whether we'd accept the assignment at all, given how I had been feeling (and the fact that we were looking forward, perhaps, to a day or two off in Orlando when we finished here), and, if so, what the logistics would be. By this point in the operation, I was already feeling a little better about things; there is something about actually working a relief operation that mitigates the petty politics of it all -- people need us, and we are delivering an important service to the community. And, after all, where I had left things was that I wanted to see how we were asked when the next one came along, and how well they handled the deployment. So that left merely the logistical questions.

We decided that we could handle the logistics of being separated for a few days with such a short distance to move the bus, although we vacillated between leaving the bus in Kissimmee or taking it to the new location from the onset. Ultimately, it made no difference; the search for new headquarters kept coming up empty, and we ended up opening the new operation in the very same building where we were closing the old operation. It was a little strange shipping all the equipment from the Fay operation back to Austin, even as people were arriving for Hanna (a situation which caused some tension with the incoming job director).

The Hanna operation was short-lived. We had not even signed a new HQ yet nor received any equipment when I got a call from the DOC that we were being assigned a new DR number and that we were now, officially, the Hurricane Ike relief operation -- Hannah's track had already moved so far east that it was no longer a threat to Florida, and Ike was looming large.

We signed this new headquarters Friday and began moving in, with our equipment arriving here that morning. Louise remained behind in Kissimmee to finish wrapping up Fay, and I bounced back and forth as the Ike HQ officially "moved." We completed the move Saturday and things were very much calmer Sunday. That said, by Sunday morning, it was looking like Ike would also miss Florida altogether, and the whole operation went into a holding pattern while we waited to see where the storm would head. This morning we had little more to go on, but it began to look more and more like we would be sending many of the 400+ volunteers that already arrived here westward to Louisiana or Texas.

That's where things stood as I began typing this early this afternoon, during a quiet moment. The quiet moment was short: soon, all hell broke loose as we got marching orders to set up a high-volume "outprocessing" center to quickly move 400+ people off the operation to wherever they might be needed. By 6pm, that plan had morphed into moving the entire operation, lock, stock, and barrel to Fort Worth. Suffice it to say, the server and database ramifications of doing that were not fully thought through when the plan was hatched, and we scrambled until nearly 10 this evening to get everything ready. Tomorrow will be another busy day as we try to get users migrated, and half my staff will be leaving mid-day for Fort Worth to re-start the operation there.

We have elected not to follow along. We've been deployed more or less continuously since July 11, and we could use a few days' break. Also, we came all the way to Florida from Texas, and we'd like to enjoy it a bit rather than go right back there. Lastly, we're still smarting from the deployment fiasco on our way here, as well as the battle royale we had to get our expenses reimbursed from Austin, and we're just plain tired of fighting that battle (more on this in another post -- I'm running out of steam tonight).

So we will remain behind, along with a small crew, to dismantle this headquarters over the next three days, pack it all, and ship it to Forth Worth and/or Austin. Then, to coin a phrase, we're going to Disney World.


  1. Hey glad to hear all is OK! Also glad to hear that
    A) you've decided that helping folks is more important than giving up to some stupid jerk who pulls politics into a situation where it doesn't belong in the 1st place.
    B)That you took a stand and declined the deployment to enjoy some well deserved time off!

    Our buses are back in TX after being home 1 day! This time TX called me bright and early Sunday morning asking me to bring ALL of them ASAP!
    Well I sent some but had to keep some at home for prior commitments! And it's working out great that I did keep 2 here because I have filled the schedule on those 2 since there are no other buses available locally!

    Enjoy your time off & say hello to that big rat @ Disney for me! LOL!
    ;D BK ;D

  2. hooray you took some time for yourselves. I believe that is very important, and am happy to hear you decided to.



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