Indian Ocean Tsunami Inspires Bay Area Volunteer to Take Action at Home
By Melanie Finke, Director of Marketing & Communications, American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter
December 14, 2009
Contra Costa volunteer Briana Taylor had planned to spend Christmas 2004 on a beach in Thailand. Instead, she and her family had spent an extra day in the north and missed being in Phuket when the deadly tsunami hit the area on December 26. The devastation she saw while in the country spurred her to take action and started her on a path that would lead to volunteering with the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter.
“We saw an amazing amount of destruction in Thailand, and we really saw what can happen if you’re not prepared,” says Taylor. Eight weeks after returning home, she flew back to Thailand and helped with cleaning up the debris.
The following September, she watched in horror as the same type of devastation hit New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. She volunteered with the Red Cross and worked in the Oakland Call Center, using her skills as a trained psychologist to help Hurricane Katrina evacuees. She continues her work nearly four years leader, acting as a preparedness instructor and lead for partner services for Contra Costa County.
“My whole passion with the Red Cross is helping people prepare for disaster,” says Taylor. “The reason I’m in partner services is that we help prepare our community. We help get things in order before a disaster. In Katrina, if we had those relationships ahead of time, we would have been so far ahead.”
In her partner services role, Taylor says she acts as a liaison with the city and county emergency operations centers, ensuring that the Red Cross has a seat at the table to discuss sheltering and feeding when disaster hits. She and the partner services team also works with other non-profit organizations to identify shelters and train staff in personal preparedness and shelter operations. During disaster, Taylor and other partner services volunteers assist with the variety of partnership issues that arise, such as figuring out what do with donated water from a local business or working with tribal nations to ensure their residents receive services.
“Partner services is really all about problem solving. You’re out there seeing what needs to be done and doing it,” says Taylor. “For me, it’s amazing. There’s nothing better than doing that.”