Thursday, August 9, 2018

Three Questions … with ECC Representative/Dispatcher Karenine Leveque

“3 Questions …” is an American Red Cross in Greater New York blog series featuring staff, volunteers, and partners who help carry out our humanitarian mission. Through these short interviews, we hope to shine a light on our unique programs and get to know those who make this work possible.

Karenine Leveque, a resident of Uptown Manhattan, joined the American Red Cross in Greater New York four years ago as a volunteer with the Emergency Communication Center (ECC) team and, soon enough, became a full-time employee working as an ECC Representative/Dispatcher on the 6 A.M. – 2 P.M. shift. She is responsible for fielding calls and coordinating response efforts across New York City, Long Island, the Lower Hudson Valley, New Jersey and parts of upstate New York.

What is it like working for a 24/7 operation responsible for ensuring the timely dispatch of Red Cross relief?

I think it takes a special person to work in the ECC. You need to be flexible because you get all sorts of calls: from clients [individuals affected by local disasters] and calls that aren’t all related to disasters.

It’s not for everyone. You need to be able to multitask. There’s a lot going on in there. However, you have downtime and you have times where it’s crazy. You can have, for instance, eight jobs open [local disaster responses going on] at the same time.

When you’re alone and you’re juggling multiple jobs and the calls are coming in, that’s a challenge. But I love it. I love it. I love the fact that what I’m doing is making a difference in someone’s life. I don’t even consider it going to work. That’s the way I look at it. I consider myself lucky because not a lot of people get to say, “I love my job.”

Can you walk me through the steps from when you find out about an incident to the end of the response?

For instance, I just had a fire come in. Once you have a fire, we visit this City website that keeps populating the information about the fire for us. It will tell you the size of the fire (which you need to have), the floor the fire is on, and what kind of dwelling it is. You need to know all of that. You need to know the battalion number of FDNY responding to that fire and you need to know at what time it started. All of that needs to be documented in our incident report and once we have all of that, then we can conclude that we have verified that fire and that we need to respond.

We assign the incident to our team members who will respond in person on scene. As they’re leaving the chapter, they let us know that they are en-route as a unit. On their way there, if there is traffic, they have to let us know and when they arrive on scene, they have to let us know, and within 15 minutes they need to give us a preliminary report. Every 15 minutes they’re supposed to communicate with us and let us know where they are, what they’re doing, and what’s happening.

They have to do a damage assessment to the affected units, and if somebody wants assistance, we have to know that. After all of that is done, they let us know that they are leaving the scene. If we have another incident for them, we assign them again. If not, we ask them to come back to the Chapter.

Throughout this process we are also sending internal updates, dispatching additional staff when needed, booking hotel rooms for clients, if needed, and ensuring the debit cards we give to clients are loaded with money.

Can you tell me about your interactions with clients? Does one interaction stick out as the most memorable?

There was a client who was from my home country of Haiti. I was actually off-shift and I got a call from a responder, we’re friends, to help translate into Creole and even though we have a line for people who can translate, she called me. I said, “Why are you calling me? Why don’t you call the translation line?” And she said, “You know, the way I’m seeing this lady, I just don’t know if that’s the best way to help her. Since I know you speak the language I think it will be more personable if you could speak with her.” It turns out that it was better than putting her through to the line because she had no understanding of what was happening to her. She was being vacated and she had a baby and the baby was sick. She was crying, hysterical and everything. So I was explaining to her why we were there, what we were going to do for her, and I was explaining to her how, come Monday, she would follow up in person. I even explained to her about the recovery process and it turns out everything went well for her. And she even called back to say thank you.


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