First, it was reinforced that things don't always go as planned. FEMA established a processing center at the hospital in Burlington, partnering with the Department of Human Services (for food stamp applications), the Department of Agriculture (for farm losses) and the national flood insurance program. It was well organized and staffed. Except that FEMA failed to announce their location in the local news or to other shelters and other organizations. Not surprisingly.....very few people showed up. More information included the fact that the counties in Illinois that had been devastated by the floods had not been declared an emergency, so the residents there were not yet eligible for government assistance. And there's more! FEMA set up in a city that could be accessed in 15 minutes by driving across the bridge between Illinois and Iowa.....but you can't use that bridge anymore. To access Burlington from Illinois is now a two hour endeavor. Lesson 1: FEMA doesn't always do things in a logical fashion.
Lesson 2: This was a great opportunity to gauge whether teams are ready for the AACR course. Can you dog travel long distances in a car comfortably? Will your dog crate quietly if you step out of the room to use the restroom? Will your dog play well with others? Teams really need to assess their capability to be fielded after the AACR training prior to taking the training. Work on your weaknesses so that you are confident that being fielded won't be more stressful.
Lesson 3 (and likely the most important lesson): Play well with others! We had great support from Cindy Ehlers at AACR, Heather McAtee, Delta Society and the local community. As circumstances changed, we were able to modify our plans and continue to work effectively together.
We did have the opportunity to meet with the National Guard troops that had been deployed to fill sand bags and build levees over the last few weeks. Tired and sore, we still managed to get some smiles as they played with the dogs.
We are looking forward to more AACR adventures, N.