This evening when I got home I battened down the hatches. I moved some lawn chairs into the basement and stowed some of Beth’s yard toys under the deck. (Stowing under the deck and battening down hatches both sound nautical).

I also put away a few garden tools. Basically, I was looking for anything outside that would make a good missile and securing it.

Then I went out and picked more blackberries. I got about a quart I guess, but there are still a lot of red ones out there. If they survive the storm, I should get another gallon or so. I was surprised to find a spring peeper hopping along a blackberry cane and from leaf to leaf. It was about three feet off the ground. I had no idea they’d ever hang out in a blackberry patch, but there you go!

It’s not supposed to be terrible up here in New Hampshire. We’ve got CT, RI, and MA to blunt the force of the storm. Still, it could get nasty. We stocked up on food and made sure we have lots of water on hand. I think we’re good for a week with no power, and we can make do after that.

I am ready to deploy with ACS-DR in case we need to open a multi-agency warehouse. I’ve written here several times about training for that, and this will be my first deployment if we’re called out (and if I don’t have my hands full here). I might be able to work the warehouse for a week, but we’ll see. There’s no training like on-the-job training!

Yesterday I went to Freeport, ME to attend another Disaster Response seminar. This one was held during Camp Meeting, which is an annual gathering of Adventists from all over the conference, and usually lasts about a week. Our conference (Northern New England) covers Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Peter Robinson is our conference ACS-DR (Adventist Community Services – Disaster Relief) coordinator, and he asked me if I would be willing to serve as the conference’s NH state coordinator. We talked about it yesterday, and I agreed to take it on.

This means I will be attending some “VOAD” meetings. VOAD is for Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster… response. It consists of several organizations including the Red Cross and Salvation Army, as well as several other churches. Our church is not currently represented.

I will also be responsible to recruit more NH volunteers for disaster response, and I will need to finish my certification, which means taking the seminar I had to miss on Friday on account of Jonathan’s graduation.

Today at work, one of the guys had brought in a bunch of tomato plants that he doesn’t have room for. I took most of them – 16 in all – so I could plant them in my pathetic garden.

David had an orthodontist appointment late in the afternoon, so Va proposed that we all meet and have dinner somewhere to mark Father’s Day. OK! I choose a Mexican place within easy walking distance of my office. After David’s appointment, Va parked at my office and we walked over from there. It was pretty OK! Then I took the kids and Va ran some errands.

When I got home I dug up my garden and planted the 16 tomatoes in a 4×4 grid. Then I got my pruning shears and bow saw and started clearing some trees so my garden could get a little western sunshine. We’ll see if that improves things or not.

I usually only plant stuff I really like, and it never does well. I have failed at squash, corn, and beans (the Three Sisters), as well as several types of greens. I really like all those veggies. I like tomatoes, but I don’t love tomatoes. This is a sure indicator that I will have more tomatoes than I can shake a stick at. It happened in Virginia when we lived there. I tried planting all kinds of stuff I really love, and it never amounted to more than half a serving. And then I planted tomatoes and had more of them than I could eat. We’ll see if I have a repeat.

Last night I drove up to Maine and stayed in an Econolodge in Waterville. That was still about an hour away from Bangor, where a Disaster Response seminar was being held. I got up around 7:30, had some breakfast in the hotel (which had no wifi except in the lobby), and then pressed on to Bangor. I got there a little before 9:00am.

That’s when I learned that this seminar was one that I had already taken in Portland late last year. Groan. That was a four and a half hour (each way) trip pretty much wasted. And of course, I felt pretty stupid. The thing that fooled me was that this seminar was described as hands-on, and the one I attended was not hands-on at all. None the less, it was the same seminar. I figured this was “Part Two” but I was (very) sadly mistaken.

I stuck around anyhow to refresh my memory and eat lunch. It was supposed to end at 5:00pm, and for all I know, it did. But I left at 3:30 or so. I figured my memory was refreshed enough by then.

I did stop on the way home and pick up a geocache. This one was in the 43/70 sector of New Hampshire (that is to say, the latitude was 43 degrees and some change, and the longitude was 70 degrees and some change). There’s another cache in NH called the nine degrees of New Hampshire, and to claim that one, you have to find caches in all the nine degrees. I now have four of the nine.

Still, it was a long drive.

We got more snow today. It started out as snow in the mid-afternoon, but the forecast was for only two inches. Around 2:45 we all loaded up into two cars and headed to Concord. The boys and I were going to a Pathfinder meeting, and Va and Beth were going to Pizza Hut to have Beth’s birthday party. Va scheduled it during a Pathfinder meeting on purpose, because many of Beth’s friends have siblings in Pathfinders, so their parents were already planning a trip to town anyhow.

When we got on I-93, we saw the remnants of half a dozen accidents, most involving more than one car. It was slick out there! Jonathan was driving, and had I known that the roads were that slick, I would have driven instead. But he did OK, and we got there safely.

We finished off the Disaster Response – Advanced honor tonight, so that’s behind us now. I was giving two kids a ride home, so on the way back I drove the car (rather than Jonathan). We skipped Taco Bell because of our riders and because Va had brought plenty of pizza home from the party.

By the time we left, the precip had switched over to rain, but it was still pretty dicey. When we got home Beth showed me all the things she got from her party. She’s pretty wound up about all that now, so I don’t know how she’s going to get to sleep.

Today I led the Pathfinders back into the neighborhood where we distributed bags for the food drive yesterday. Some streets gave a lot, and some gave very little. I don’t know what the difference is. It didn’t seem to be related to their affluence.

Collecting the bags took about an hour, and then everyone hauled them back to the church. I had set up several tables and put signs on them. The first three or four tables had no signs, and that’s where all the food was placed. Behind those I had two tables labelled “Canned Food” and “Dry Food.” Then behind those were tables labelled “Canned Fruit,” “Canned Vegetables,” “Canned Beans/Chili,” etc. I had one group of kids moving the stuff off the first wave of tables onto the second, and two more groups to further sort them onto the tables in the back. Then we took the bags and loaded the food into them.

You might be surprised at how much Jello we got. I know I was.

I went back to the food closet, but it didn’t look to me like there was enough room back there for all the food we had collected. I decided we would wait on shuffling it back there until I can get a hold of Sharon, our Community Services Director.

Afterwards, we had some popcorn, fruit, and animal crackers, and then we started our regular Pathfinder meeting. Eating during the meeting was a mistake, as the kids left crumbs everywhere. So we had to vacuum before we did much of anything else, otherwise, we’d have had ground-in-crumbs all over the floor.

I taught the Disaster Response honor tonight, since that’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and also, we had a bunch of food to sort. We used the technique I learned at the seminar last weekend, and that worked out pretty well. I’m fairly convinced that we could mount a respectable, smooth-running donations collection point if we ever need to. We weren’t numbering stuff, but that would be a pretty small leap from what we did do. All in all, I’d say it went very well.

I went to the Disaster Recovery seminar today in Portland, ME. I had to get up at 6:00 am which is about 8 hours earlier than I usually do (or so it felt). Then I drove for two and a half hours, arriving about 15 minutes early.

The seminar itself was pretty interesting. There were a lot of people I know from other Pathfinder clubs, but I was the only one there not from Maine. The first thing they did was take our pictures so they could issue us ID cards (they will mail them out). That will get me into a disaster zone should the need arise.

I think the main message I took away from the seminar is that there are some things that are irresistible for donors to donate, but which are absolutely not needed. Chief among these is water and used clothing.

Water is not needed because pretty much all the disaster response teams in the US have agreements in place with beer bottlers. They can (and do) supply bottled drinking water by the truckload at a moment’s notice.

Used clothing is not critical either. First, it represents a huge burden to the agencies that warehouse it, because before it can be useful, it has to be sorted by size, sex, and season – that’s a lot of piles. Doing that work takes a lot of time, and frequently, the clothing isn’t needed at ground zero anyhow. There have been disasters where getting rid of excess clothing was a major problem – neither Goodwill nor Salvation Army would take it.

At the end of the seminar I had to take a test which I’m pretty sure I aced. That’s the requirement for getting the badge which should arrive in the mail sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Our conference Disaster Response Coordinator asked me if I would be willing to attend VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) meetings in NH, and I said I would. I hope I don’t regret that!

I have come to the conclusion that our GPS unit is not really suited for geocaching. Since it’s supposed to stay in the car, it always assumes that you’re on a road. If it finds that you are not on the road, but near one, it “makes the correction” and plots your position on the road. This is not a good thing when you are trying to find an off-road cache.

Beth, Penny, and I walked down to Sandogardy Pond and looked for the two caches that are down there. We utterly failed to find either of them. So we went back home. I checked out the geocahing website again and read the clues. Then I looked at the “spoilers” showing more precisely where to find the cache.

Now I have spent an awful lot of time hanging around at Sandogardy, so when I saw the photos, I knew exactly where this thing was. At that point we were both too tired to walk down there… so we drove.

In short order we had found the cache. It was nowhere near where the Tomtom said it should be (though Google Maps had it exactly right).

The cache itself was pretty tiny! Just a little aluminum capsule about a half inch in diameter and maybe 1.5 inches long. I unscrewed the cap and found the log inside. The log was a sheet of paper about an inch wide and I guess 11 inches long, rolled up onto a toothpick. We unrolled it and signed the second-to-the-last space. Beth signed first. I instructed her to leave enough space for me to sign too, but she didn’t. I squeezed “jwt” and the date in there anyhow. Then we came on home.

I fell asleep on the couch, and Beth played on the computer.

Tomorrow I am going to Portland, ME for a seminar on Disaster Response. I’m going to get certified to help run a donations warehouse, accepting donations, bundling them up into useful packages, and distributing them. So when a disaster strikes, I will be qualified to assist.

The speaker at church today was Peter Robinson, who heads the Northern New England Conference’s disaster response effort. After the worship service, we had a small potluck, and after that, he presented what he called “Disaster Response 101”, which covered disaster preparedness. I didn’t know who he was before today, nor did I know he was going to make this presentation. I told Va I wanted to stay for it. She went home, and Jonathan and I stayed.

My interest in this subject stems back to the hurricane relief work we did back in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina struck. My two sons and I were part of an eight-person team who went to Bass Memorial Academy in Mississippi to help with the reconstruction of their campus. We stayed for a week, and it was an incredible experience.

I heard that this year Bass has a new principal, and he is none other than my old friend Gary Wilson. Gary was the principal at Vienna Adventist Academy when Jonathan started there. Bass has done well to hire him.

But back to Disaster Response.

In 2005, ADRA introduced nine new Pathfinder Honors, including one called Disaster Response. These were incredibly difficult to achieve, and I would say they were not really within reach of any but the most diedicated Pathfinders (staff included!) One requirement was to receive disaster response training from Adventist Community Services (ACS). When I looked into this, I found that it was a five-part series of seminars, usually offered over the course of a weekend. The training was not offered very frequently anywhere in the US (seems like it was in either Savannah or Atlanta when I checked). That’s just great if you don’t mind travelling to Savannah, but I expect most Pathfinders would not be able to do that. The seminar I took today was the first of these five. The second will be offered in November, and I intend to take that one as well. Peter may be presenting these at the Pathfinder Leadership Training in January too, but that’s still just an idea at this point.

Not that it matters for the honor though. This year the ADRA honors were revised to make them accessible. Good call. The training is no longer required for the honor, and that is but one example of a nearly impossible requirement which has been overhauled.

But I still want the training. I would like to be involved in that sort of thing, so I am going to make every effort to make that happen.

When a major disaster strikes, people spring into action and gather all sorts of things, including diapers, bottled water, cothing, food – anything that makes sense. Unless these items are sorted in a warehouse and repackeaged though, they are not much good. The niche filled by ACS in disaster response is in warehouse management. In other words, sorting, repackaging, and distributing donated goods.

Paul Watson, our conference Associate Pathfinder Director also has an interest in this, so we may be able to hook in the entire NNEC Pathfinder organization. It seems to me that having the training available when the leaders meet in January would be the most effective means of getting something in place quickly.

OK! I guess that’s about enough from the disjointed thoughts department for one evening!