Knowing I’d be in the cold all day was not exactly an added attraction to volunteer for this operation, but I recognized people needed help, so I left my newly remodeled family room, fireplace, and big-screen TV to drive four hours and offer assistance.
When I arrived, Chester County was nearing the end of the response period and entering recovery mode. There were still over 70,000 people without power, but nearly all roads were passable. One did not have to look very hard to find tree damage.
The clear task for Team Rubicon, municipalities, and other response organizations was to itemize and prioritize efforts. Restoring power was job number one but where and how to efficiently use manpower and equipment became the tough question. TR was involved in both electrical grid restoration and residential tree work.
Palantir software was a critical tool for assessing damage, and its utility should be heralded by both TR and other organizations that received reports, pictures, and messages therefrom. Voice recognition software allows quick completion of embedded forms, allowing more locations to be assessed in a shorter period of time. Uploading reports via cell phone instantly gets the information to the Incident Commander, and the ability to attach photos with narratives allowed decision-makers to efficiently dispatch and track resources. Our chainsaw teams cheered the tasking method because they were able to proceed from location to location, perform work, and move on without confusion or unnecessary delay.
TR personnel involved with Operation: Valley Forge received support and respect from the many agencies, municipalities, and TR HQ. We had more than ample space within the Chester County EOC and plenty of equipment (including safety gear) for the saw teams, assessment teams, and staff. We had radios and smart phones already uploaded with necessary software with extended-battery-packs. We slept on cots and were lucky enough to spend the last night in a hotel.
I volunteer with TR as a way to help people that really need it. The best part of the operation was to see the genuine relief and appreciation on the faces of the residents who felt great stress, uncertainty, and sometimes discomfort as they faced power outages and costly cleanups.