When Hurricane Ian struck south Florida as a Category 4 storm on Sep 28, it came with 150 mph winds, and carried a 15’ storm surge in some areas. The destruction on the barrier islands of Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach was nearly total, but even far inland, rising water and damage extended into neighborhood after neighborhood. Residents living miles from the water were forced to abandon their homes, fleeing in kayaks, boats, and makeshift rafts in the middle of the storm.
When disaster strikes, so much help is needed. Crisis Relief and Recovery, an organization started by our co-founder Ethan Wendle, responds in these times of immediate need and finds communities who have been hit the hardest. Together with locals they make a plan for immediate relief and recovery, and get to work bringing in resources and mobilizing volunteer labor.
One such community in Fort Myers, FL was Harlem Heights, a working class neighborhood located 4.5 miles from Fort Myers Beach. As the flood waters rose, neighbors swam and boated to help the young and elderly to safety, and even though the community was inundated with over 5’ of water flowing through it, not one resident lost their life in the storm. When the waters receded, residents left high ground and returned to their homes to find nearly everything they owned destroyed. Nine out of ten residents in Harlem Heights lived without flood insurance and most of the residents worked service jobs at the resorts on the beach. So in addition to losing their belongings and having damaged homes, many lost their jobs as well.
One of the most incredible things after a natural disaster is witnessing people from all over the country, and the world, responding to the needs of others. When mobilizing hundreds of volunteers to perform the immediate work needed in Harlem Heights, it was amazing to see the response from volunteers that included DiamondBack customers. Truly wanting to make a difference, they responded from near and far to meet the most urgent needs of the community.
#1 Damage Assessment
The first step in recovery from a disaster is damage assessment. Every natural disaster is unique and Crisis Relief & Recovery uses a combination of drone footage, and in-person inspection of each house to identify and categorize damage in a community. Assessed damage is uploaded to a cloud-based website accessible by all crisis response organizations so resources can be efficiently deployed.
#2 Trees and Debris
When responding to most natural disasters, dealing with downed trees and general debris that blocks travel and recovery efforts is crucial. Many volunteers drive from hundreds or thousands of miles away with tools and equipment necessary to do the job.
#3 Tarping Roofs
After access to an area has been opened up, one of the most urgent needs is to quickly repair roof damage to homes so that subsequent rains don’t further damage structures or property. Many of the residents of Harlem Heights salvaged undamaged items from the storm only to have them ruined days later when leaks from their roofs damaged the property. Tarping roofs is the fastest way to seal off these leaks and get the home dry so that property can be spared and interior repairs can begin.
#4 Muck and Gut
Flood waters are full of mud and contaminates which ruin virtually everything they touch and so all belongings must be thrown away. Even after the mud and muck are cleaned from the inside of the house, the water has penetrated every wall, cabinet, and closet and the house must be gutted down to the studs above the water line. The restoration from this process is called Muck and Gut, and involves the destruction of virtually the entire house. If the process is not completed quickly, mold will begin to spread rapidly, creating extremely unsafe conditions inside the home.
It’s been a month since Hurricane Ian destroyed communities across Florida and the recovery process will take years in some locations. The response from volunteers in the first month after a disaster is critical to supporting a community and establishing a path forward for their recovery. Being able to deploy into a crisis and be ready for anything is at the core of why DiamondBack covers were built. We’re so grateful to see DiamondBack customers using their trucks, covers, time, and hearts to make a difference for those in need.