Saturday, April 29, 2017

Northeast Arkansas Mega Blitz Home Fire Campaign

On Day 1 of my job with the American Red Cross, back on October 10th, 2016, I listened in on a call with a bunch of people I didn't know regarding a topic I knew nothing about. I was jotting notes furiously in my brand new work journal, not sure if what I was writing down was relevant information or not.

That call was the first discussion Pam Knapp-Carver, the Executive Director of the American Red Cross serving Northeast Arkansas, had with the region regarding her idea for a "Mega Blitz" Home Fire Campaign, a campaign created by the Red Cross to reduce the number of home fire fatalities and injuries by 25% in 5 years. The Mega Blitz Pam envisioned was inspired by a similar event done previously in Cincinnati. Her idea was to install 1000 smoke alarms in northeast Arkansas, and she needed all the support she could get from the region to make this a reality. As the new Regional Communications Director, she needed my help to take care of the publicity.

On Day 1 as Regional Communications Director, I was working on this project. Soon I was meeting with Pam regularly, through phone calls and visits to Jonesboro, meeting with representatives from the A-State Red Wolves to get them on board as partners, planning and brainstorming all kinds of tiny details, working with our disaster team, working with my communications volunteer Pat up in Mississippi County for media releases, visiting with KAIT8 for interviews and media coverage, coordinating with external partners, begging at times for things we wanted, commiserating with Pam on numerous occasions - you name it. We worked on this for months.

(And while I helped a lot, Pam and Dean and Kandy and all of the northeast Arkansas volunteers and staff deserve WAY more credit for all the work they put into this event!)

Then, after all this work, just a week before the event took place, I accepted a new job within the Red Cross - as Executive Director for the Greater Arkansas chapter. But I had one last communications job to complete: Pam's Mega Blitz.

My first project to my last project - this event brought my whole (short) time as RCD full circle.

And what a great event it was!

I took part in one "mini blitz" earlier in the year, installing smoke alarms in a small town called Brookland, then today went from team to team in Jonesboro taking photos and posting on social media.

We had a goal of installing 1000 smoke alarms, and at last count, we were over 1100. I could not be more proud of Pam and her team for how amazingly they pulled this thing off! There were a few hiccups here and there, but the key thing is that service delivery was not inhibited. We have made northeast Arkansas 1100x safer over the past few months. What an accomplishment!

We are now planning to do this same thing in Little Rock in October - a year after we started planning for this one in April. If we could pull off this one in six months, I think we can pull it off again in the next six months. With Pam helping me this time!

To view the tally and the hundreds of pictures posted of the mini blitzes and today's Mega Blitz, check out the website.

And for one last little "full circle" piece of the puzzle - early in the planning stages, I called Skip Tate, the Regional Communications Director in Cincinnati, to ask for advice. He sent me tons of great documents and resources they had created for the event. Several months later, I got to meet Skip at the Advanced Public Affairs Team (APAT) training conference in Washington, DC. Since joining the Red Cross, I have met so many amazing people, Skip and Pam and so many others, who have all become part of my ever-expanding Red Cross family. And when you work or volunteer in disaster and spend hours and days and weeks together, tirelessly working in trying conditions, you really do become family!

I don't believe in luck or fate or everything-happening-for-a-reason, but becoming a part of the Red Cross is one of the best things that's ever happened to me. It's the most taxing, exhausting job I've ever done (daresay more exhausting than even parenting), but like parenting, the rewards make every second worth it. I love the Red Cross and its mission more than I could possibly express.

To watch a few moments of us live in action, view this clip from KAIT Region 8 News.