By Robert W. Wallace, American Red Cross
When Jason Trinklein learned of the historic flooding in Charleston, South Carolina, he felt an overwhelming urge to provide assistance to people whose homes were heavily damaged or destroyed by the historic floodwaters. The Red Cross immediately came to mind, so he made a phone call. “Can you be here tomorrow morning for training,” asked the Red Crosser on the Charleston end of that call.
Jason could not get from Long Island, where he is temporarily living with his parents, to Charleston by the next morning. But he packed a bag, jumped in his car, and headed south as quickly as he could. When he arrived, the person at the front desk of the Red Cross Disaster Operations Center thanked him for his interest but said they already had sufficient event-based volunteers. Red Cross volunteers go through background checks and have extensive training for their particular jobs. Event-based volunteers, those who come forward at the time of a specific event and have not gone through training, are sometimes utilized, but sparingly.
Jason did not give up. “I drove all the way from Long Island,” he explained, and after a little persistence on his part, Jason was told that they would see if they could find a place for him to help. It turns out that he has been of immense help. “Jason is a [computer] networking genius,” says Paula Forrest who is in charge of technology at the Red Cross Disaster Operations Center in Charleston.
Like all other aspects of modern-day life, Red Cross disaster response is heavily dependent upon access to computer networks, but getting computer and communications technology in place during a disaster can be a major challenge, especially when normal communications channels are not operational. In those cases the Red Cross relies on mobile satellite antennas for its communication needs. It turns out that Jason had worked for a number of companies in the Charleston area as a computer and networking specialist. He has been of immense assistance in keeping the Red Cross technology systems operational.
Jason’s experience living in Charleston was the major reason he felt such an urgency to help with the disaster response. He attended the College of Charleston for his undergraduate studies, and he loved the city so much he stayed for several years before finally leaving to pursue a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering. “I love the pace of life in Charleston,” said Jason. “It has such a strong sense of community….[when the flood happened,] I just felt compelled to come back and help out.”
Jason is now an official Red Cross volunteer, having completed the initial requirements during his brief stay here. He is currently looking for a job and pursuing the use of the teaching credentials he obtained while at the College of Charleston, despite his initial interest in Biomedical Engineering. “I find I really like working with children,” he shared. Wherever Jason ends up, he says that he plans to look up the local chapter of the Red Cross and continue as a volunteer.