Volunteer Bagging Machine Shows No Signs Of Getting Bagged

Today I visited the Arena site of sand bagging operations once again.

What an operation it has become.

Back when i first visited Gabe and his volunteer bagging effort it was pretty much a manual operation. Piles of sand had been delivered. Bundles of burlap bags as well. Shovels were available to any who showed up. A couple of guys were there that first time.

Bags were filled and loaded into the beds of pickup trucks – manually.

But there was a hint of the path it would take as the situation evolved. They’d gone on the web and found videos of how to be more efficient at filling bags. And the concept they went with was a simple one: a flat wooden frame made out of 2x4s and (I think) plywood. Stuck into that are 4 8 or 10 inch wide plastic plumbing tubes all cut to about 30 inches or so. (these are my guesstimates from memory at the end of a long, tiring day so bear with me – you’ll see them in the video)

When you have the wood frame down the tubes extend upwards with open ends at the top. Bags are slipped onto each tube much like a sock onto a foot. The jig is flipped over so the flat frame is facing the sky.

There are 4 holes. People plunge their shovels into the sand pile and move the sand to the open holes until the tubes are filled. Then the frame is lifted up, and off, leaving behind 4 half filled bags.

The unfilled half is for handling and folding over to close. A completely full bag would not have much of a lip to seal with and it would wear the volunteers out quicker because of the extra weight.

With more than one person filling the task is quickly done. And it’s on the to next batch. And the next.

I did over an hour of this kind of bagging up at the airport when I shot my ‘volunteer opportunities‘ time lapse a few days back. That was then and now it’s grown.

I’ve not been out to the airport much lately. And not to the Nursery Fire Hall at all. But the operation at the arena has become something faster and mechanized a bit.

As you watch the video what you will see is volunteers still fitting and filling the bags manually, most of the time. But there are little machines tooling around as well. Like little front end loaders or tractors with a front shovel scoop. And that fills the tubes with sand with a little manual attention to spreading. Oh yeah, and fork lifts. And pallets.

Now the way it works is after the bags are filled they go onto pallets. This is better because the volunteers don’t have to lift the heavy bags any height – just tote them over to the pallet and drop them in the next available location.

Once the pallet is filled to the desired capacity a fork lift comes over and lifts it and either deposits it into a waiting truck or puts it aside until a truck shows up. The turn around time for a pickup truck doing it this way is reduced from 5 or more minutes to a minute or less.

When I did the stint at the airport there were two sand piles and trucks backed up in petal formation around them as volunteers bagged and loaded. Depending on conditions and numbers the trucks could be there a while. With this newer arrangement the only waiting they do is in line and that’s nowhere near as long.

Watch the video. Watch it again. You’ll see people doing manual labour. Then pausing. Then doing more labour. Then pausing. There’s quite a few people there so people can take a shift or two to recover and the operation isn’t slowed.

That’s so much better. Because the workflow gifts them with a rest it paces them and they don’t spend themselves nearly as fast. Get overly exhausted and potentially suffer heat stroke.

They’re volunteers. They not being burned out unless they push themselves.

Next I’d like to talk about Gabe Warriner.

Watch the video again. If you don’t know who he is look for the skinny guy with the orange reflective vest who isn’t doing a lot of bagging. I’ve seen him bag, he does it. But what he does that no one else is doing, and appears to be doing it pretty well, is he runs the show. Without being bossy. Watch him and see how he stops in one pace for a while, talks to some one, maybe points or gestures and then moves on to somewhere else and someone else.

Some times he’s on his phone because he has to call somebody or somebody has called him. Other times he’s putting out requests and updates on social media (facebook) or responding to responses from people on facebook.

Other times he’s talking to people who have come to him. I did a small live stream update today from the arena. my intent was to just corner him for a few minutes in the shade of a tree and get him to talk to me and the facebook community. ‘cuz we have to keep you all updated and interested so you’ll think about coming out and helping – you know how that goes. Anyway . . . I get the cell phone ready and connected to the Whats up in Grand Forks BC group on Facebook and start the stream going and . . . along comes the Regional District Director Roly Russell and our Member of Parliament Richard Cannings.

I’m not so much of a journalistic papaprazzo that I feel I should but in so I wait. They talk for quite while as I wait. Then one of Gabe’s crew needs his attention or a phone rings – can’t remember which. So I wait. And Wait. And have a hint of what network newscasters have to do when a situation is unfolding and they have to fill the airwaves with something. So I natter to the audience. Okay natter isn’t the correct word – I try to point things out. I try to exhort them to think about doing what they are looking at – helping their community.

And I wait. And eventually he’s got time. And we do the interview. And then he’s off to the next thing that needs tending to because that’s his job now. In this small army of volunteers he’s like a Colonel. Generals sit back and think strategic. Colonels are more operational and that’s how I’m seeing Gabe.

He’s a boon to the community.

All those people working themselves into a stupor they’ll have to sleep off later are credits to their community and the human race.

And just in case you think that it’s all done and they don;t need the help: think again, more water is on its way. Every sunny day melts more snow and by Wednesday we’ll be up to our knees downtown once again. Or possibly worse. So we need the help.

Here’s the video:



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