Amanda Ripley

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A Doctor Returns From Haiti

11th Mar 2010 posted in Disaster Behavior

Vivian Reyes lives in San Francisco, where she likes to go biking and play with her puppy. She is also an emergency medicine doctor who recently went to Haiti to help with the relief effort. 

Before she left, Dr. Reyes read The Unthinkable. Much to my relief, she found it useful. And she also learned some lessons which are not in the book. Her blog post has some specific realizations about fear, chaos and the small problems created by spontaneous acts of generosity.

We have all heard the statement, “Communication is always the biggest problem during a disaster.”  In retrospect, I never truly understood the implications of this statement until now. When I arrived in Haiti, local phone coverage was intermittent, at best.  Even when calls went through, the reception was often so bad that it was more frustrating than helpful. Satellite phones were unreliable and generally unusable.  Surprisingly, my iPhone seemed to send and receive text messages and email without much problem. While this was good for simple communications, texting proved too time-consuming, and time was not a luxury that I had. Coordinating relief operations via any electronic means proved to be difficult, and face-to-face communication became invaluable….[T]he time delay and content limits of text messages made me realize how important it is to be self-sufficient and decisive during the aftermath of a disaster.