A Look Back on Hurricane Andrew: Switchboard’s vital role in crisis management
Crisis is danger, but also an opportunity for growth. It all depends on how it is handled.
Crisis is defined by experts as a serious event or “turning point” in a person’s life but, also is an opportunity for growth and empowerment. It may affect us individually and/or collectively.
Crisis are short in duration and how we intervene and resolve it, negatively or positively, will make all the difference.
For Miami residents, August 24th, 1992, can be considered one of the events that changed forever the way we respond in a crisis. The hurricane Andrew hit our communities, unprepared for the most part and, with little knowledge on how to react to the “crisis”. Switchboard’s 24-hour Crisis Intervention Center had to evacuate, forced shutting down its services for about 36 hours. After that, two of our managers decided, on their own, that our Crisis Intervention and Information and Referral services were vital and needed, so they decided to climb a wall, to the second floor, to gain access to the building and we became fully operational, responding to calls from citizens directly affected, or reporting on friends or neighbors.
Amid all the confusion, Crisis Counselors at our Helpline, remained focus on the immediate needs, directing callers to services, while listening to their fears, providing them with emotional support.
Switchboard had a team of interventionists dedicated to gather basic information and referral.
Many of our frequent callers were very appreciative of our 24 hour services and sent us food and donations.
We learned that community engagement, emotional support from friends, family and even strangers were an intrinsic factor of the recuperating process.
We couldn’t stop Andrew (crisis) but, how we all reacted (intervened) to the event, made a difference, providing an opportunity for growth.