I just got back from working tech support at the Austin Convention Center. There weren’t too many technical problems, but a lot of it was just helping people learn to navigate the different websites, sign up for email accounts, etc. Mostly, I learned about the difficulties of relief work right now.
Volunteers live in a different world. I overheard a helpful volunteer trying to give directions to an apartment complex, but totally oblivious to the fact that the women she was talking to didn’t have a car…. “Well, see, here on mapquest, you take I-35 south to….” They ended up trying to find their relative, who had met up with some type of apartment locator…
interesting things of today…
– helping mr. henry find the ‘resource center’ where they told him to go. He was lucky, his yellow card number that was under 1050, and he could be seen by FEMA today. (FEMA only arrived on Thursday)
– frustration at the FEMA web servers – many people were trying to register online, but facing server timeouts and ridiculously long wait times. You know how there’s nothing more frustrating than typing in a whole page of information, and being unable to submit it? Starting over with that is no fun.
– i tried to help a guy get money of his bank through a wire transfer. it ended up being ridiculously complicated, and needing all these things that he didn’t have (credit cards, etc). he said he’d head to the nearest western union.
– i tried to help mr. huang find his cell phone. he stopped me because I looked like I might speak Mandarin… which I do, but with limited vocab. I hope he appreciated my efforts. We walked all over the center, retracing his steps… ending up at lost and found where we didn’t find it. But there, I did find Kyle, from Mosaic, working at the info center with his all acess pass and red cross vest.
– 2 women had gotten their housing vouchers and were trying to find an apartment. I’m not sure how they were supposed to do that – someone had told them to look online. I showed them rent.com, but really, how is that helpful? I tried to get them in touch with one of their relatives who might know more.
– oh, vice president cheney came by – walked right by our little area. that was weird. someone complained to him about the FEMA website (i’m glad). the secret service were out in full force.
– I got to help lots of people check their email and write their friends.
– i helped kids play computer games.
– i prayed.
I’m glad I went. I don’t mean to paint too bleak of a picture – it’s amazing that everyone has cots and clothes and food and internet access and phone access, etc. It’s just the next part of it that is getting harder – people are starting to try and figure out ways to reunite with family members in other parts of the country, and trying to figure out what to do next.
I think it might still be awhile, FEMA is still taking awhile to process people.
I didn’t know there were cameras there, but when Cheney walked by our bank of computers, I was in the background for kvue news. Saw it twice tonight right after the Texas-Ohio St. game. Weird.
Also, I’ve been thinking about FEMA’s webservers and totally dismayed at all the network trouble they’re having (not able to handle the load). Back at AIM Funds, we had a whole bunch of hot swappable servers that could be put into action if anything went down, and some that could be added if need be. I find it terrible that FEMA, an organization that supposedly specializes in disaster recovery, can’t find enough servers to put into use that will let people register.