When the Unexpected Happens

For almost nine years I have been a volunteer with the American Red Cross. (To be precise I was a paid staff member for three of those years and a volunteer the other six.) In that time I’ve done quite a few things, beginning with two months as a volunteer doing data entry on the World Trade Center disaster response, then working for the September 11 Recovery Program (that was the paid position). After downsizing in 2004, as the Recovery Program was completing its work, I became an active volunteer with the Greater New York chapter.

Last Thursday I was scheduled to give a presentation on emergency preparedness in Staten Island at 7:00 pm. After five years of giving presentations I almost had to cancel one for the first time–there was a tornado warning for Staten Island and Brooklyn until 6:00 pm. And I had figured that I would need to leave at just about 6:00 to get to the location with a little time to set up.

Now this was a serious conflict for me. Although as a volunteer I work many fewer hours than paid staff (and some other volunteers) do, I take my volunteer commitments seriously and once made I almost never cancel–and not at the last minute! Yet would it be appropriate to go out when there was a tornado warning? I was on pins and needles, listening to the radio and watching for text messages from Notify NYC.

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