When disaster strikes; With best intentions
The first sound you hear on this program is that of an ambulance. And the next sound you hear. I don't want to go to no hospitals you meet their agenda we're going to the hospital let's get him inside. Look I I was I'm over here just my back to him spit off. Nothing has been a tornado lately you know people hurrying out there people die and leave up a little way out there where you know that when you hire boys you'll be all you guys with and since women can't you know I'm going back with you. Well that's the sound of a new patient in a hospital full of tornado casualties a disaster victim. Not this boy know this boy is a volunteer rescue worker. Radio television the University of Texas presents when disaster strikes
a series of programs designed to show how present day Americans meet the crisis of a disaster situation. All over our nation. Social scientists are seeking through special studies to find out how we as a people react to sudden widespread catastrophe. With the help of Dr. Harry Moore director of a disaster research study at the University of Texas and the Hogg foundation for Mental Health we're going to share some of the things these scientists have found. When disaster strikes is produced and recorded by radio television. The University of Texas under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Today's program. With best intentions. Thanks.
Thank you guys. We won't hear anymore from our volunteer rescue worker on this program. He's asleep now in a hospital bed with his torn and blistered hands bandaged a sedative coursing through his bloodstream. Asleep for the second time in one day. The first time he was standing up just standing there swaying a little when a nurse at the first aid station saw young fellow what's the matter here. You Daisy are asleep sound asleep on his own feet. But he needs the sleep. It's been a long day for a pint sized boy who's 18 and looks 12. More than 48 hours long lots of hours to be swinging an axe and heaving bricks and wrestling timbers and broken glass in a frantic nonstop effort to rescue people buried alive under a tornado shattered buildings. Especially when you started by pulling some other
people out of a building that buried you. Greg. That is the portrayed of one volunteer in the Waco Texas tornado disaster of 1953. A teenage boy whom the Waco Times Herald said one of the biggest bunches of heroism yet c of whom the ambulance driver said he made the news when it comes to guts and the guy's biggest manhunt. It's a picture of courage selflessness unbelievable energy and an Durance of a driving urge to help button help and keep on helping by all accounts an accurate portrait of that boy. Is that as true a picture of all the volunteer workers in a disaster situation. Let's ask Dr. Harry even more of the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas as director of special disaster research studies. Dr. Moore has heard many first hand appraisals of civilian reactions in times of crisis. What did you find about
volunteers in those appraisals Dr. Moore. Why say. By all accounts that picture is an accurate portrait of many other volunteer has those thousands of dedicated says it's who standing they are for themselves and they say this is in the wake of every catastrophe. Over and over again. And the report of the sassed operations we read words like these from the Federal Civil Defense administration's report of the Waco tornado volunteer workers although untrained displayed a spirit which veteran disaster workers stated had seldom been seen elsewhere from the civil defense director's report of the tornado at San Angelo. Individual heroism and service is beyond the call of duty became so commonplace but separate mention of credit is impossible. Now these aren't just woods. They aren't just empty phrases or empty praises. Have a disaster situations may differ and they are
extent specific consequences. They have one thing in common when disaster strikes and the face paralyzing shock is over. Everybody wants to help. Look almost anywhere in the immediate aftermath of catastrophe and you will find this to be true. This is the Red Cross headquarters. Yes it is. Well look I don't know if this is the right place to bring him or not but I got a car full of clean sheets out there clean sheets for shelter purpose I don't know honey burned. I heard on the radio there was a need for all clean linens for burn dresses well these are clean all right but they're not oh I just ripped my lip in cause a Bayer and every other one in the neighborhood I could get my hands on. We can all get some more sheets at our home or sleep on the mattress if it comes to that but those poor hurt folks live in pain now there have got to have burned Grayson. Yes the people offer themselves and their goods and the pressuring urge to help is apparent on every hand that a tornado devastated city.
There are now those hands feel better a lot better thank you Mr. Rather than oh god that stuff out there sure tears them apart your does. Now the girls over there I'll find you some fresh dungarees close to your size anyway. Oh my God there is about the size. Just so they're dry it's the main thing and then you can stray. For instance I'll forget about sleep mass I couldn't sleep anyway. Think about those poor folks out there under that mess and their relatives waiting to hear might as well go on back and start digging farro But you've been at it. 24 36 no longer knew Bennett this Miss and those other ladies do you is all here hard at it when I come in the first time. Proud to be here when I come back to you I reckon. Well we're all alike. All of us down here where it happened just can't holler uncle or cave rope as long as there's something we can see in front of us that needs to be done. This is a spirit that makes itself known and him I can see period following
dishonest. When the face shock is when people are shaken himself free. Just on days. Unexpected catastrophe brings. They plan genda action. Action to relieve the suffering of those about action that will help those who act together find weapons for themselves on reality. And the intense activity of this rescue period. We see the effort of the people to set their wild rights again by sheer strength and vigor. For God's sake do something. That is a sentiment which impels them toward the task that is asked by his own powers and it is not irreverent in this nature. There is plain and the efforts they favor a dedication to complete selflessness. That calls upon almost superhuman reserves of courage and there is. That man. Why use the net like that now for two nights in a day that I know they won't stop he will stop to sleep he won't stop. Period. He's not even awake oh man either
he heard about the tornado in San Antonio and drove all the way over here and just started thinking that his plane to a boundless generosity and good will. It shows itself in the giving of goods. Peanuts lady 20 cartons for the rescue squads. Thank you thank you very much. But what I don't know the truck I traveled for the company but I won't be doing any travelling right now it looks like I'm making that truck into an ambulance. Lots of energy and peanut spread and it shows itself in the giving of physical effort danger be hanged. You guys hold my ankles and lower me down. If that felt like and big got out I'm going to get him out the way of doing something and the people almost to a man are united in their conviction that something must be done. Twelve men on my payroll and on call on every piece of equipment on the place just say the word and they're yours. Twenty women are here just waiting for instructions. Where do you need us and what can we do.
I'll do anything to help Mister just anything. This urgent desire of people to help to give on reservedly of themselves and their belongings when the size just strikes is as spontaneous as it is widespread. In stricken communities all over the country this dramatic generosity and. Offers of help pulling in from all sides. Supplies appear almost as if by magic often in such quantities as the first few. Real. Barriers. You can round up 15 or 20 more people to start the Labor Party. And find another big room to store it in there about to be crowded out down there at the headquarters. One devastated Texas town gives ample evidence of this pressing and generous
impose. When the tornado struck Waco on the evening of May 11th 1953 news of that city's plight was flashed over the nation and the world within a matter of hours carrying their story of tragic death. All the homeless families of Roy and businesses of personal loss. The answers were immediate and they came from many places that in many ways answers enclosed in letters sent by this list of donations before weeks in the story. Are you ready. The people of Greater Kansas City citizens of McGregor Texas. Rocket fuel division Phillips Petroleum Company. Fourth grade class Edison School Waterloo Iowa. National Veterans of Foreign Wars. Glass Bottle blowers Association of the United States and Canada Presbyterian daily Vacation Bible School Adamsville Texas. Dallas ducks and club. Gulf Oil Corp.. The minute detachment a five hundred fifty second engineer based peple take Korea. Rotary Club
Winborn Minster Dorset England. Convention of the Diocese of southern Ohio of the Episcopal church help came by telegram this wire service have auctioned off the first bale of cotton of the 1953 crop at the New York Stock Exchange and the Waco disaster funds getting half the proceeds. Help came by a phone call. Hello. Speaking trucks and bulldozers Yes sir we sure can how soon can you get them over here. Take about five as you say for five days while I pee. Well when it's right look mister. Excuse me but where in the world are you coming from anyway. York Eugene Oregon. Well let's let's back up here just a minute. It never dawned on us and waited for you to give us the green light and that's that mighty fine of you sir it sure is but Eugene Oregon it's. Well that's just too much to expect. Yeah.
From the records we have of those who volunteer to save us is that money for their possessions to the stricken community. It seems that very few things with too much to expect in those face days following the tornado at Waco. Unfortunately only fragments of information about this response survive the hectic days of emergency and rescue. No one had time or inclination to record telephone calls or to file telegrams or to list the overwhelming numbers of people and supplies which converged on this city in crisis. But the evidence left us is enough to indicate that in Waco as in other cities we do not want a volunteer as in the face now was of a dis Asda situation. They spring up from everywhere with a flame intention of helping have and way of what they can and even sometimes atmosphere.
You may need any help here Chief. I'll say we do but the main thing we need help with is the help. How do you mean. Oh just look at this mob come stampede in here hundreds of thousands for all I know maybe two dozen. Want to do and have a good rest I'm standing on one foot walking around it without the foot. Yes ma'am and still couldn't get in the way. So the ones that do know what they're doing they can't do it. Can't work around this bunch can't work room. Can't get rhythm were just plain hindered with hail. Yeah I see you are well the only thing I know to do is to throw a police block around this area get everybody out of here there's Hanno you can't do that Jim Webb got men far haven't got a man nowhere near their spread out thin his wings spread I'm now some I'm doing rescue work some garden store fronts so I'm current injured or hauling supplies so I'm escorting the heavy machinery and equipment into town doing demolition work. But look here Chief. Most of those things they're not policed Well that's right. But somebody has got to do those jobs and right now it looks like we got more jobs and we
got people able to do them. More jobs than people able to do those jobs and more people than you know what to do with. That's the dilemma that faced Waco in 1953. It's a dilemma that faces many cities at an time of disaster emergency. And here was a man who knows all too well from his own experience how desperate a dilemma it can be. We went to Waco and talked to Mr. Jack W. Jaffery Waco city manager at the time of the tornado and the person in charge of personnel and we asked him about the problem of jobs and people to do those jobs. Following a disaster Mr. Jeffrey Falk was the situation as you saw it regarding manpower versus jobs to be done immediately following
the tornado. Or Mr. Norris as you can imagine immediately following any time for this a.m. People are curious and they rushed to the scene of the accident. That was true in our case people came from far away to. Get right into the big middle of the situation. Which had the. Effect of creating more jobs to be done en. Route or an immediate need for control of people that work to be allowed in the area. Well these people that converged on Waco and the people were that were already here. Did you find them eager to pitch in and help. Yes and in many cases too eager to have. But I think you can safely say everybody was eager to have them want to do everything they possibly could. Well do you think that. They actually knew how to help. I'm sure that some of them did know how to help and probably would have been very valuable to us had they been in the right places.
Then there was the problem of getting the right man in the right place for the proper job. We had no Argan ization and consequently we had I'm sure people well qualified to help us that were in the wrong parts of town trying to do the wrong job. Did any plans exist prior to the tornado to guide you in utilizing the available volunteer help. It was unfortunate that we were in the process of changing directors of our civil defense unit. Consequently I did not have that continuity of plan an organization of people to assume certain responsibilities in time. I believe the tornado struck here on Monday afternoon and by Wednesday morning you did have a meeting. That. Led to organizing the volunteer help. Rally and we actually had our meeting on Tuesday here in the process and progress of the work that was noted through Monday night and Tuesday morning and clearly showed a need for Argan ization and getting people that were qualified to do certain
jobs are doing that job rather than something you know. Allow that it's over that. Waco has. Cleaned up most of the scars of the 1953 tornado. What lessons would you say or learned. That would. Help make such a reconstruction job easier if it were to happen again. Well. There are several lessons that we learned I don't want to insinuate by that that we're not a whole lot. Perhaps some of them but certainly I think the need for leadership. And the need for leadership to step out and assume responsibility without having to wait until an call a meeting of the board of directors to get something done. Sense Atar nativist nice we have seen fit to make the civil defense director one of our only employees. There's a good reason for that in our thinking. One he has the. Knowledge of the people that have the equipment available and. France tence our present
directors and airport manager his normal. Place in our chain of command is responsible to the Director of Public Works. Consequently he would have been in time of emergency knowledge of who had control of the bulldozers who had control the radio equipment who had control of the health unit and its facilities the fog and machines who had a responsibility for our water treatment plants and things that are definitely going to be involved. And as I asked. We think there is an advantage to be gained from it. Well thank you very much Mr. Jeffrey. In Waco as another said is where the SAS just as have been made. That's right and there was no lack of response on the part of the public generally. And studies indicate to the volunteers save us as a vital to this asked operations. An impressive list could be made of the agencies and organizations which were active in Waco immediately following the tornado and whose activity was
essential to the recovery of the community. And it must be noted that ordinary citizens working as volunteers funniest the manpower through which these organizations function we have in the studio Miss Mattie Treadwell who is a federal disaster task force coordinator for the state of Texas. Mr. Treadwell you compile a comprehensive report on the Waco tornado for civil defense. What was your overall impression of the volunteer workers in Waco. Their response was splendid. In fact it was too splendid. There was an overabundance of persons wanting to help if they are completely uncoordinated then perhaps you have a chaotic situation in your help. Yes. Can you give me a specific example of how too many volunteers got in the way. Oh yes. For example you take a particular basement where all the floors of the building have fallen in on the victims and people are trying to excavate
all of this rubble. You find too many persons standing around interfering with those who are digging. And yet a few hours later when the persons doing the digging are fatigued and lose efficiency they look for help and find that the second shift has gone home possibly thinking they're not needed. These There should be a place to which these people can report and offer their services which will call them and assign them a time to come to work. For example one man with a truck went to five different places looking for someone to tell him where to report. He never did find anyone to give him direction. And so when he was needed he had no way of knowing that he was needed and so he never returned to help again. Yes and of course after two or three days the volunteering dropped off people evidently were convinced the emergency was over although there was still a great deal of work to be done. Well did you notice in Waco that the military
functioned more efficiently than the volunteer civilians. Yes in a way because they have a plan of action. The boys are trained to work as a team. Rescue work is actually a very delicate operation it's not just bulldozing away the rubble but it's lifting a brick or timber of delicate lace so that the victim underneath is not further injured. Civil defense rescue teams are highly trained with each man having a specific job. Well would you say then that the type of volunteer help that is needed. Is that type that can go down and dig people out from under the rubble is that the chief need for volunteers. Oh it depends upon the operation. If it's a flood you may need people to sandbag the levees if there are many injured you need those trained in first aid and other medical skills. If a person has no skill or training he shouldn't come down and stand around at the scene of the disaster he would only get in the way.
However he may be able to do something at home. For instance if it's a woman she could babysit for her neighbor who may be a trained nurse or other trained worker. You can cook hot food for the neighbors family or possibly even take him dispossessed family from the disaster area or what is your office doing now the office of a task force coordinator. We are trying when there is no disaster to help cities and counties make plans in advance so that every citizen will have an assigned place and know exactly what to do in any type of disaster and also so that each branch of city government will assume its proper directive capacity planning like this goes on throughout the United States right now. Volunteer help is needed in a disaster but it must be coordinated. Thank you very much Mr. Pratt. It is clear that in Waco as in other cities and crisis volunteer help is urgently needed. It is also plain that this matter of volunteer
manpower is not without its problems that not all of those who mean well are quick to do well and that the best of intentions often come hand in hand with the poorest of preparation. Then it happens as it happened in Waco that help tarnish is to hindrance with throngs of the well-meaning rushing in to block rescue lanes hamper emergency efforts to interfere with those who have urgent work on earth. MRS WARREN. MRS WARREN we've got to get these people out of the hall. How can we doctor they keep for us somebody has got to pour them back out by force if necessary. Some of the men looking for relatives and friends like the rest are here to help. We cannot treat we're concerned with treating the injured Mrs. Warren not the well and we can't get to the injured with all these people crowding and milling about. We don't even know where they are but if they're looking for a doctor or a wife or a child they can then they don't want to find him on attended or maybe even dead because he wasn't noticed in the mob. We
can hardly move in here for those who need help. It's a matter of life or death for somebody to take over and clear out those who don't. Over and over again we find in the aftermath of Waco as Don I know in the wake of other dishonest as that many of those eager to save did not have the skills required for such say this revealed in our study is two part and parcel of the same volunteer manpower problems. Is the lack of organized means for utilizing the skills that do exist for making the most of those who are ready willing and able. Yes just like Miss Johnson that announcement on the radio about how we take calls for volunteers. Yes I told them to make it myself. You're getting plenty of coals. Semantics for getting so many and I where I
can't begin to handle looks safe. Call him and say we'll do this song and they may need people to do that. But we haven't got Tom lied about him sort out his ghost where we're just answering the phone answering the phone when you need somebody else to help you expand it. Another girl maybe. We lost the girls Miss Johnson to answer the phones and a lot of calls to the manager. Some of these folks train people to they could be doing some good. They said they've been calling you for hours for they didn't get through to us and we need somebody several somebody saw registrants or we need a whole staff Ms Johnson. It's going to take two weeks to get the volunteers and John's put together. Thing I could think was. This is a picture of volunteers as we found it in Waco. It is a picture found in city after city where this asteroid has dropped.
The problem is not a lack of people eager to offer themselves that but me and I say vs. The problem is rather to utilize effectively the efforts of those who want to help. In the city has started. This problem is not men solving with an entire satisfaction. The result is that many people skilled and unskilled have felt that they were not allowed to make the contributions they were ready and I just might. They have felt that their contributions and their accomplishments fallen short of the mark. Even though when this s just dropped. They can follow it immediately with the best intentions. And think nothing of thorough. Argue. Or go. When Disaster Strikes. Radio television the University of Texas has
brought you the fifth in this series of programs designed to show how modern Americans react to the crisis of a disaster situation. Today's program with best intentions was prepared with the cooperation of Dr. Harry even more of the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas and the Hogg foundation for mental health. We are indebted to the division of defense and disaster relief of the governor's office the state of Texas for material from its files and a Dr. Harry B Williams technical director Disaster Research Group National Academy of Sciences Gneisenau Research Council for advice and assistance. When disaster strikes as directed by R. S. Nies from scripts by the Durham twins under the supervision of Robert F. Fink. Special Music is supervised by Elena Paige who composed the original score. Your narrator is Jimmy Morris cactus Pryor speaking. With best intentions was produced and recorded by radio television at the University of
- When disaster strikes
- With best intentions
- Producing Organization
- University of Texas
- KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- The compelling urge to help. Willing workers as hindrances to vital work. Important aspects of volunteer goods and services.
- Series Description
- This series focuses on disaster preparation, as well as the effects wrought by disaster.
- Public Affairs
- Media type
Advisor: Williams, Harry B.
Composer: Page, Frances Eleanor
Director: Norris, R. C.
Narrator: Morriss, Jimmy
Producing Organization: University of Texas
Producing Organization: KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
Speaker: Moore, Harry E.
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-15-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “When disaster strikes; With best intentions.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 4, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-x63b4b4r>.
- APA: When disaster strikes; With best intentions. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-x63b4b4r