I was invited to participate by the American Red Cross as a mass care subject matter expert on a team of 18 persons on a trip to Chile. The purpose of the trip is to gather some of the hard lessons learned by the Chileans as a result of the terrible earthquake they suffered in February of this year. We depart on this Red Cross sponsored trip this Sunday, July 18 and will return to the United States on July 28th.
Although I am taking leave from my job to make this trip, my emergency management responsibilities required that I request and receive permission to leave the country during hurricane season. My condition for participation to the Red Cross was that I be allowed to scurry home if a big storm threatens Florida.
I have known about the possibility of this trip since May, but was afraid to talk about it (or even think about it) until the last few days, when it looked like the Storm Gods were going to smile on me for at least the next 7 days. But now that it looks like I am going to be able to go, I am excited and see this as a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
My lifelong urge for once-in-a-lifetime adventures was dramatically diminished after Iraq, but it it has been six years since my return from the Middle East, and I feel ready for another adventure, even if it is only of the small, ten-day variety.
I have seen the tentative itinerary, and after some initial meetings in Santiago, the capital, we travel south by vehicle into the earthquake zone. I have studied the local newspapers on the Internet, and the stories I read have confirmed that the country is still suffering through numerous, complex problems caused by the event. Yet, since these problems are no longer reported by CNN or Fox News or the New York Times, the people of the United States know nothing about them.
But I will.
I have been to every country in Latin American except Cuba and El Salvador (I have been to Chile twice). I speak fluent Spanish. But this trip will be different. Traveling outside the capital by vehicle, and getting to see and talk to emergency managers and survivors of one of the largest earthquakes in recent history, will be educational and enlightening.
There are real emergency management lessons to be learned there in Chile, lessons that we can bring back home for use in California, and even in Florida. I am going to do my best to find them.