Three basic rules for working in any disaster situation


I have done a good number of international deployments and have learned to apply three basic rules to working in any disaster situation:

1. ALWAYS FIND YOUR REPLACEMENT. You never know when you might not be there. You might get pulled off to do something else. You might get sick. You will burn out. So set things up so they can continue without you. That can either be someone who serves as a “deputy” till they know enough about how to do things to Step Up when you Step Back. Or it might come in the form of setting up systems that anybody else can plug straight into. This is equivalent to Step Up – Step Back.

2. NEVER PROMISE ANYTHING. It is all too tempting to want to promise anything for people who’ve lost everything. But since everything after a disaster is so uncertain, you never know what you’re really going to have until you actually have it. You can tell people you will do everything you can to make sure something happens, but never ever promise that it’s going to happen. Doing so just creates a huge sense of expectation that then gets turned into resentment and avoidance when you end up not pulling through.

3. TAKE BREAKS. You will burn out. You will burn out. You will burn out. This usually happens when there’s a whole lot of shit riding on you. And when it happens, you end up dropping all the balls you were juggling, and someone is going to have to pick up the pieces. You can either wait until your frazzled, short-circuited brain makes you take a break, or you can make sure to give yourself the space to take care of yourself before it happens. You are worth much more operating for short stints at 100-80%, rather than stretching yourself out as far as you can at 80-40%. So take breaks. And take care of yourself. Don’t let you conscience guilt you into not doing so.

I know this whole experience is super intense and crazy and overwhelming, but we should all take a step back, take a deep breath, and appreciate what we’ve all been able to build over the past week. It’s been super awesome to see this response take shape, and I’m glad to be working with you all to get things running. You guys are amazing. Just saying.

In solidarity,

Comments are closed.