Thursday, March 2, 2000

Red Cross Director Apologizes - Wants New Relationship

Keith Alvey, Executive Director of the Green Bay Chapter of the Red Cross, came to the February 10 meeting of the Green Bay Mike and Key Club. His presentation was first on the agenda.

[Background: In the Spring of 1992, the previous director of the Red Cross  gave the Green Bay Mike and Key Club an ultimatum of unrealistic Red Cross training and then gave the club two days to move the club radio station out of the Red Cross Building or lose whatever was left behind. In two days, a crane was brought in to remove the tower. Several members still with the club went above the call of duty and made the move. St. Norbert's College was gracious and enthusiastic about providing the club with a home and a roof to install a repeater and phone lines.  [What follows is a transcript of the February Meeting tape used for minutes. I connected a couple of separated mentions of the same subject together with minimal paraphrasing. Mr. Alvey has seen this transcript and did not have any post presentation input. - P.L.]

"On behalf of the Red Cross, I would like to apologize to you for the actions of the past director. I am sorry that happened.What he was trying to achieve was not part of the national agreement of the American Red Cross and ARRL....I will also say that my predecessor's approach was not typical of the Red Cross. It was not what our state organization advocates, it was not what our national organization advocates, it is not what my Board of Directors advocates. That was an anomaly. The other thing that I would want to do is put a written statement of understanding in so that anyone would know what we are going to provide. I know you have been burned before....I apologize for not getting here sooner.

"I have been beat up on it before [the club being kicked out of the Red Cross Building]. I also take responsibility for the organizations approach. The past director was a representative of the organization and the people are ticked off about it, and I understand that. But what I want to do is start moving forward from this point and make sure there is a written understanding between us of what is expected from both sides and get past this. I want to move forward. I will do everything while I am here to make sure, even after I leave, to make sure you don't get burned again. That's all I can do. This is a starting point.

"There is an agreement between the National Red Cross and the National ARRL as well as ARES and RACES in order to facilitate disaster communication. A few years back as the result of Hurricane Andrew, some amateur radio operators were acting as Red Cross Volunteers and they were being perceived as the wrong thing. That is not what I want. Whenever the disaster strikes, whenever the Fox River goes out of its banks, whenever Bellevue goes under water, and it will happen again because half of Green Bay is in a flood zone, when this does happen and it will happen, everyone is going to pick up their cell phone. So, our backup communications are going to be shot too. We are going to need you to help us with communications.

"I am not looking for damage assessment workers or family service workers, I've got those. What we need is effective emergency radio communications skills that you can provide.

"The Red Cross mission is to take care of the families. We don't get in there to fight fires, we don't sandbag, we don't build flood walls. Which means we take of their food, clothing, and shelter, the basic essentials. We  make sure they have a dry clean place to stay. We make sure they have clothes. We make sure their medical needs are taken care of - Dentures, optical needs, things like that. We take care of their psychological needs
by bringing in trained counselors to work with the families. We also don't go away. After the disaster, we transition in the chapter to continue to work with the families as long as needed.

"I was a little nervous walking in her tonight past the big hammer. I would like to see a new relationship. I would like to work together. I want to see amateur radio capabilities at the Green Bay Red Cross Chapter. There will be those capabilities. I would like to see you be involved with that.

"My goal is to see one of our rooms in the basement, which is next to the  power room, set up as an operator station, so in the event of a disaster, someone can come in, plug in a radio and help us with emergency communications. I would like to see a complete array of antennas. What I want to see is the antennas up and wires run and in the event of an emergency, someone could come in a plug in an extra radio. I might be mistaken but I have never met an amateur radio operator who didn't have an extra radio [laughter in the room]. I might be mistaken, I don't mean extra, I mean someone could have another essential radio [more laughter].

"I want to work with you because I know in a disaster, we are going to need you."

"What I am looking for is amateur radio operators. If I want assessment volunteers, I'll run people through a training class. What I will do is ask that the radio operators go through an orientation so they can recognize disaster relief operations and not get confused in the chaos. But I don't want radio operators to be something they don't want to be. Your love and your passion is obviously amateur radios or you wouldn't be here. I will provide the club with copies of the national agreement between the American Red Cross and ARRL. [Done, these are available and will be at the March meeting].

"I can and will work with other amateur radio operators in ARES and RACES but their mission is different. They work for the County Office of Emergency Management. Our mission is different.

"Down the road, I would like to see some fund raising to set up a backup repeater.

"What I eventually would like to see is capability - 2-meter, 10-meter, packet, the whole works. What I would like to be able to do is contact Washington, D.C." Alvey pledged to present a written proposal for our club's general membership (see following letter).

Keith Summers, President, Mike and Key Club  2/20/2000

Keith:
Sorry for the delay in getting this to you. We are sending someone to WV today for the recent floods and I had to get the paperwork in line.   Anyway as I said, I appreciated the chance to speak with the club and look forward to rebuilding a partnership between the American Red Cross and the Green Bay Mike and Key Club. The American Red Cross has long realized the importance of communications on a disaster relief operation and I know that without Amateur Radio Operators, this is very difficult.

I have outlined a time line below for the club, this is based on my own priorities and I look forward to any feedback you may be able to provide.

EARLY APRIL - Have an established site with the Red Cross Facility for the Operators to Set up shop in the event of a disaster.   Have a written Statement of Understanding in place for Relief Operations
OVER THE SUMMER - Conduct a orientation of "how Red Cross works in a Disaster" - Optional, but would help operators in understanding how Red Cross Works. This is not Mandatory, but recommended.
BY THE END OF SUMMER - Have antenna and hookups set in place on a  permanent basis.
BY THE END OF THE YEAR - Have a Radio Room designated and operational within Red Cross Facilities for use by amateur Radio Operators.

I feel that it is time to move forward and together we can make a difference that is bigger than either of us could accomplish alone.    I look forward to the opportunity to work with you in the "near" future.

Keith Alvey , Executive Director,
Green Bay¹s Lakeland Chapter American Red Cross