In retirement with no signs of slowing down
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, George Dresnek explored ways to help and found himself in an American Red Cross call center in Oakland. He now regularly deploys for the Red Cross as a facilities expert to 6 to 7 disaster responses a year, volunteer work that can take him away for up to 28 days at a time. Acknowledging the incredible sacrifices he makes on behalf of those in need, George readily credits his wife for this generosity. “I retired in 2012,” he smirks, describing his ongoing availability for service. “But she was the one who told me to ‘get a hobby.’”
George had just returned to Northern California from his deployment to Hurricane Irma last fall when the fires hit Santa Rosa. Disaster response headquarters opened up in Marin, but on day four of the flames, George was directed to find a space for headquarters in Santa Rosa.
“It was a scramble and hectic chaos,” he says. “With a disaster like a hurricane, there is time to think so you have a chance to get shelters and supplies ready or at least get them on the road. But the disaster in Sonoma County was doubly unique: not only was it sudden, but most disasters are gone in four hours. Here the fires burned for 10 days, and we lost a good part of building stock in Santa Rosa.”
Another complication in facilities management during the October 2017 fires were the spontaneous shelters opening across the county. They were a testament to strong neighbor networks but precluded the Red Cross from occupying space for the public with tested protocols, medical supplies, and relief materials. So George took to the streets.
“First, you use local knowledge,” he says. “Second, you might drive down streets looking for empty spaces. Then third, you tag government relations or the local Red Cross Board to find facilities. And of course, we’re always trying to get it donated. It’s hard to compete when the loss of office buildings meant businesses were willing to pay top dollar for any empty spaces.”
George’s fire deployment last fall lasted six full weeks, his longest yet. In May, he was awarded the Disaster Cycle Services Exceptional Response Award for Napa and Sonoma Counties.
Once the dust settled, George resumed his teaching work. With a background in law enforcement, he naturally transitioned to logistics and facilities management and enthusiastically works to pass it on. He taught law enforcement classes at the Santa Rosa Junior College and currently teaches search and rescue and logistics/shelter fundamentals courses for the Red Cross.
George was recently named the Logistics Lead for the Northern California Coastal Region. His ongoing training took him to a logistics academy in Dallas. The discussion focused on mentoring, succession planning, and recruiting people into logistics support.
He shows no signs of slowing down and exemplifies the mission of the Red Cross. Thank you, George! And thank your wife for us, too.
George is pictured here during his deployment to Houston to support recovery efforts during Hurricane Harvey.