I was deployed to Moore, OK on Tuesday June 11, 2013 and returned Saturday, July 29, 2013. This was my first deployment and I had no idea what to expect. I arrived at the airport and picked up a car that I used the entire time I was deployed. Upon arriving at headquarters, I met with the mental health managers, receiving room information and a phone and my assignment. I was assigned to the largest and busiest Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC 4) to provide mental health services to families affected by the Spring Storms, including tornadoes and floods, of May 11 and May 29-30.
When I first arrived, I was assigned to sleep in a dormitory room at the University of Oklahoma, rooming with a nurse. The arrangements were comfortable, with shared bathrooms. Sleeping bags, pillows and blankets were offered if you did not bring your own gear. There were snacks and water provided by the Red Cross, along with toothbrushes, shampoos, toothpaste, etc. I learned that on this particular deployment, I didn't need to pack much and will definitely pack lighter next time.
When I arrived at MARC 4, which was only a mile away from ground zero, I found my Supervisor and I was immediately providing mental health services to children and families, stabilizing clients and making longer term referrals to local mental health agencies. We had an excellent group of 5 therapists working together and camaraderie developed quickly. Staff knew the mental health therapists by the blue tape that was put on the back and shoulders of our red cross vests. We worked long shifts: 8am-8pm. I was there to work, so the long hours did not bother me. Self-care is extremely important, so taking lunch and other breaks is important in order to look after yourself.
It took 2-3 days to get my "sea legs" so to speak, and it was constantly busy. On day 5, all my fellow mental health workers deployed out and I was asked to Supervise all mental health for MARC 4. They also collapsed all the other MARCs into MARC 4 so we got even busier. New therapists and counselors deployed and I spent the next two weeks training and supervising new volunteers, but was still able to work directly with clients, which was my reason for going to Moore in the first place. I have two or three stories of amazing clients I had the privilege of working with that I'd like to share with you in my next blog. I feel this was an amazing and humbling experience and I definitely wish to deploy again.
I would encourage you to deploy if you haven't already done so. The pictures you see do not even come close to capturing the magnitude of the disaster. The swath of the tornado was 1.5 mile wide and 17 miles long. Then the rains came and flooded everything within minutes.
Thank you, Glenda Love, LCSW
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