Before the hurricane, the SW CMO program created a group chat that they would use to keep in touch. They had no idea that group chat would be the key to survival when Hurricane Ian hit.
Barbie Duvall is the Quality Assurance Supervisor for the SW CMO at Lutheran Services Florida. The CMO program provides child welfare case management to children and families involved in the foster care and protective supervision system of care in Lee County.
After Hurricane Ian hit, many of the staff members had no electricity, internet or cell service which meant no access to reports and systems that were critical to knowing whether the families in their care were safe.
So, they took to their group chat, and formed a system of their own.
Team members who fled to other cities/states were able to assist because of their internet access and cell phone service. They helped with crucial data entry as well as funnel information to their team members stuck in hurricane-hit areas, offering to bring back supplies upon their return to the area.
“I cannot say enough about our supervisors, assistant program directors and program director. I was in awe of the amount of communication that was going on prior to, during and post hurricane.” Barbie says. “Our first priority was making sure everyone was safe. Some of us remember Hurricane Charlie, so we knew the drill. We knew to reach out immediately to make sure families were safe.”
When the team couldn’t reach their families physically due to downed trees and flooded streets, they received permission to check-in virtually.
“In the chat, as soon as somebody said ‘I can’t get through to one of my families!” someone else would say ‘I just spoke to her– she’s fine!’ It was incredible.” If someone had a problem another team member without hesitation would step up and help solve it.
Two of the supervisors are roommates. Together they ventured onto the streets of Lee County early after the hurricane and reported back in the group chat, telling everyone of the conditions and how they thought they could best assist the team. They drove about 30 miles to a relative who had power and internet so that they could look up crucial case information. They had to take screen shots of data and handwritten lists and text them to the team which proved invaluable.
“Relying solely on the group chat, you could at times sense the frustration and anxiety in the chat,” Barbie says. “People were giving play-by-plays during the storm, saying that their street was beginning to flood and talking about their fear. But then others would chime in to reassure them. I couldn’t help but get emotional.”
During the crisis, this team became the perfect picture of collaboration, innovation, and quick-thinking. Because they were able to band together, families received food, water, and support that was critical to their survival.
Currently, the team is:
- tracking home visits to ensure children and families have been seen post-hurricane
- assessing children’s and families’ needs and arranging for them to be provided by LSF, if possible
- communicating available resources in the community (food, supplies) to staff and clients
While this team came through in impressive ways, they are still in such great need.
They showed up for others. Would you show up for them?
Help us support our team and their families by donating to our hurricane relief efforts by visiting LSFNET.ORG/IAN