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Inside Insight in St. Croix

2011 May 12

By Natalie Loney

One can never underestimate the power of a strong voice.  It can be clear like a bell with the right timbre and resonance, or booming and vibrant like a bass drum.  Either way, the power of my own voice was tested on a recent trip to St. Croix, USVI.

I was in St. Croix in support of EPA’s emergency response to an air release from the HOVENSA refinery.  Part of my responsibilities included going door to door in impacted areas to talk to residents about our sampling results.   So, with the support of local Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) reps, our team set out to reach out to residents.  I was comfortable with this task, I’ve done community outreach countless times before.   Walk up to the door, ring the bell, wait for someone to answer, then,  start your mini-presentation, simple, right? Wrong! First of all, you can’t just walk up to someone’s door.  Most of the residents’ homes were set back from the road behind a fenced or sometimes walled lot.  My DPNR colleague pointed out that opening someone’s gate and entering their property without permission would be seen as improper.  I definitely didn’t want to introduce myself to a resident by insulting them.  What to do?

The answer was really quite simple.  My DPNR partner simply stood outside the fence, gate or wall, and yelled out, “INSIDE!”   It worked like a charm.  Residents looked out and waved us in or sometimes came over to the gate and spoke to us over the fence.  By the fourth or fifth home, I was calling out “INSIDE!” like a pro, I even adopted the sing-song inflection of a Crucian accent.  The simple act of following  local protocol went a long way,  I started out on the right note and residents were receptive to our message.  My voice made it through the whole day without incident.  That’s because mine is of the bass drum variety not the resonant bell.

About the author: Natalie Loney is a community involvement coordinator in New York City. She has been in Public Affairs since 1995.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Joan permalink
    May 12, 2011

    An insightful reminder that we need to understand the audience before delivering the message!

  2. Miguel permalink
    May 13, 2011

    Today, one day after the blog entry was posted, 11 schools in St Croix have been dismissed due to strong odors from unidentified sources. Students and teachers complained of teary eyes, headaches, breathing difficulty, and unpleasant smell. It seems to happen too often and the community suffers as there doesn’t seem to be a long term resolution to the air quality issues.

  3. HSV permalink
    September 29, 2012

    Great blog…I think it is so interesting to hear stories of how other people live in different countries. St. Croix sounds amazing!

  4. Bill Bixby permalink
    August 4, 2014

    St. Croix is amazing but there are a ton of areas for improvement. There have been many instances of violence lately and that is terrible for tourism!

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