Firefighter and ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member Mike Peachey (NZ) completed his training last March and was called for his first deployment two weeks ago to respond to the flash floods in India. He writes about his experience after one week of being there.
‘If l were to describe in one word the time from the first phone call from Sam at Shelterbox Operations on Saturday night New Zealand time to landing in Delhi on Monday Indian time it would be hectic.
‘Arranging time off work, postponing and cancelling appointments, booking flights, packing, researching the background on the disaster and area where it occurred, checking visa conditions, ensuring welfare of family and reviewing ShelterBox pre-deployment information.
‘On arrival in Delhi l was met by SRT member Eva Doerr (DE) whose even faster response meant a ten hour wait at the airport for her.
‘Having recently lived and worked in India, Eva’s local knowledge and contacts meant that we hit the ground running.
‘After brief introductions we were off on a seven hour road trip to Dehradun, state capital of Uttarakhand, the area hit by the floods.
‘Today, seven days after the event, 94,000 of an estimated 100,000 Hindu pilgrims have been evacuated, 550 people are confirmed dead and over 10,000 more are presumed dead.
‘Thousands without shelter’
‘Thousands more are reported to be without shelter. Risk from waterborne diseases is on the rise.
‘With a media focus on the evacuation of stranded pilgrims, there has been little or any coverage of the plight of the local population left behind and their devastated villages.
‘After spending the day today in meetings with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government officials to begin to get an understanding of the scale of the disaster and help identify the areas most in need, we are planning to travel to affected areas to more accurately assess what aid ShelterBox can provide.
‘Steep learning curve’
‘The deployment so far has been a steep learning curve for me, and l am sure this will continue for the rest of the deployment. I am grateful for the pre-deployment training which has provided a great foundation that l have been able to build on.
‘The focus now is to identify if and where ShelterBox resources may be utilised most effectively, which we plan to do by visiting the affected areas.’
Becoming an SRT member is one of the most challenging and rewarding things you will ever do. You will be making a real, practical, hands-on contribution to delivering aid to some of the most needy people in the world. Find out more about the SRT recruitment process here.