Tales of Recovery - NERT/Disaster Corps Volunteers assist Survivors of the Valley Fire

Image of team working in the Emergency Operations Center planning volunteer assignmentsOn September 18, 2015, the first team of Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) members, working as Disaster Corps mutual aid volunteers, was deployed to Lake County Valley Fire area, providing support to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the Volunteers and Donations Unit.  The team was able to provide field support to distribute much needed items to returning residents, and assist with intake at the Local Assistance Center.  In all, four (4) teams of San Francisco Disaster Corps volunteers from NERT worked to support the response and recovery efforts in Lake County from September 18, 2015 thru October 1, 2015.

The story is best told by the volunteers who participated in this deployment:

  • I feel truly honored to have been able to help in regards to the Valley Fire in Lake County. My recent experiences over the past week have enabled me to utilize all my FEMA /NERT/Nursing skills. The Valley Fire Disaster has redirected my life in a very meaningful way more than I can express in words. I will never take anything or anyone for granted ever again. Fire does not discriminate.
    Sylvia Borgonovo, Marina Neighborhood
  • Our training prepared us for the mission. It was our commitment, common sense, initiative, intelligence, humor and teamwork that allowed us to work out what needed to happen in each of our assignments so that we could accomplish our goals. On a more personal level although we don't know how many people we were able to help, this deployment drove home the point that the assistance we were able to provide truly made a difference. Many people we met who understood what we were attempting to do for the community thanked us for our service.
    In fact the day after I returned home, I received a call from the Captain at the Loch Lomond Fire Station asking when we would be coming back to staff the POD in the area because the residents were being allowed to return to their homes on Cobb Mountain at 5 PM that evening. A call like that lets you know on so many levels that you are doing something right and good. What I did not expect was how deeply the experience impacted me and created even stronger bonds with the team members who were deployed with me. Yes, indeed, I believe we did do 'the most good for the most people' in any given the situation we faced and that quote also probably best defines our 1st deployment.
    Jeanette Cassano, Diamond Heights Neighborhood

    Image of team packing supplies to staff a neighborhood supply point of distribution (POD) 
  • The deployment experience was rich, deep and gratifying. To be able to offer even the most modest support to people who have suffered such losses, and to let them know they are the focus of concern of people everywhere, was incredibly valuable to me…and hopefully to those we met. Listening to the stories of compassion, sharing and individual strength set a high standard for how people rally together in a community.
    And practically speaking, the over-the-top effort to serve at our base camp, and the many groups of relief workers putting plans into action, were a testimony to both the value of the training we all received and to the selflessness of everyone joined in service. I’m positive I gained far more than I gave and hope I can be more effective with each new deployment.
    Alice Rogers, South Beach Neighborhood

Upon return, the SFFD NERT Coordinator, Lieutenant Erica Arteseros, received this email from the State office of volunteering, CaliforniaVolunteers:

“Erica--you and your team are so impressive--dedicated, professional and committed to helping the Californians impacted by these fires....thank you so very much!”