Paul Herrera runs Everything LifeSaving. Together with Freya and business partners Josh Cooke, and Brandon Whorton, Everything LifeSaving is a disaster preparedness and humanitarian aid organization. Paul, Josh, and Brandon are veterans who have now dedicated their crafts to preparing those living in disaster-prone areas and providing relief in affected areas.
Recently Paul sat down with AidTeam to provide some insight into how he got into disaster management, experience with drones, and what a disaster scene is really like.
AidTeam: Thanks for taking the time, Paul. What was your motivation for starting Everything LifeSaving?
Paul: I’m service oriented. I’ve always been. Most of us in the military get into the military because we love this country, want to defend it, and above all, serve. Locally we have a lot of needs from a disaster perspective. Everything from earthquakes to tornados to hurricanes to fires. Local authorities do a great job, but more is needed. Everything LifeSaving occasionally works hand-in-hand with the Field Innovation Team (FIT) and The Wakefield Brunswick Team, we also collaborate with local agencies during times of crisis.
AidTeam: What’s your background, Paul?
Paul: E-5 Sergeant, a pilot, and a licensed military drone operator. I served both in the military as well as a contractor for organizations like Northrop Grumman, among others.
AidTeam: Can you tell us about where you’ve been deployed?
Paul: Sure, I can’t get into too many details but I was in Afghanistan most recently for three years. Much of what I did was using drones to locate everything from roadside bombs to snipers. I returned back to the States in 2016 and was involved in an accident. A drunk driver hit me.
AidTeam: I’m sorry to hear that. That’s when Freya entered your life?
Paul: You got it, Freya was matched with me as an assist canine and she has really lifted my spirits.
AidTeam: You use drones in your work, how are able to do that? You see a lot of folks messing around with drones and I am relatively sure not all have a license.
Paul: To operate drones at the level we are with first response agencies, you need a license. There are lots of airspace issues during a crisis and it is a felony to fly without a license.
AidTeam: Interesting, good to know the penalties are that strict.
Paul: They are, and with fires especially, you see a lot of insurance adjusters trying to attain information about a property’s damage with drones. What many don’t know is the information they might receive about the property’s damage is not admissible in court if the operator of the drone doesn’t have a license. They also get in the way of drone operators who are trying to assess and serve the crisis scene like ourselves.
AidTeam: When you’re deployed to a disaster, in terms of the survivors and those residents on the ground, are there any characteristics they share in common?
Paul: The one thing nearly all disaster survivors will tell you, and it doesn’t matter the disaster, is they never thought it’d be that bad. Honestly, much of our work wouldn’t be necessary if people took the proper precautions. A lot of disasters like hurricanes or tornadoes are known days ahead of time. There is always plenty of time to leave.
AidTeam: It must irritate you to see so many people unprepared.
Paul: It does, and it can also be trying especially when you could be helping those in true need as opposed to those now injured or worse who had the time to evacuate.
AidTeam: What about the people who stay behind? We’ve seen looters on TV after large disasters.
Paul: They’re real and dangerous. I’ve been shot at in Northern California.
AidTeam: Are aid organizations doing an effective job?
Paul: Things have become highly politicized in the US, we’ve seen infighting between agencies that obviously doesn’t help anyone when you’re in the first few days of a disaster looking for signs of life.
AidTeam: How do you decompress, Paul?
Paul: Freya is a huge help. I also make it a point to get outdoors, sit by a fire, or even fly. I fly single-engine aircraft.
AidTeam: What other tactics do people in your line of business take to decompress?
Paul: One common challenge is when you’re in the military or in a crisis, you move and act with a purpose. Everything you do has a purpose. When you come back home, and especially if you are not charged with any duty-related activities, simply relaxing can be really difficult. There is no purpose in relaxing. At least not like in a crisis.
AidTeam: We really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us, Paul.