NEWPORT CITY - Most people try to avoid the devastation and destruction that natural disasters can cause. However, that is not the case for many of the nation’s first responders who are more than willing to rush into the storm.
While Hurricane Isaac headed to the Gulf Coast, rescue, ambulance and first responder teams around the nation geared up to lend a helping hand, even though most may never be deployed. Like the Boy Scouts, these teams are always prepared, just in case.
Newport Ambulance Service (NAS) has members prepared to respond to disasters in areas as far away as the Gulf Coast. Jay Wood, division manager for NAS, has been on many national deployments for other services.
“We sort of know the game,” said Wood. “It’s kind of a Vermont thing to do. It’s in Vermonters' blood to help out during an emergency.”
Wood likes to deploy advanced level providers to disasters. “You really never know what you’re going to get for a patient,” said Wood. If that’s not possible, having someone who is a basic or intermediate provider is fine in a disaster. “You realize quickly that transportation is probably more important.”
Sometimes crews do something as simple as aid in evacuating a hospital.
Directors of ambulance services feel volunteering for deployment is good for their personnel and in some cases good money for the service. Preparing for deployment includes picking a crew that is willing to take the trip and choosing what ambulance, if any, will go.
American Medical Response (AMR) contracts with thousands of ambulance services across the Continental United States. Ambulance services have to make sure they have the proper insurance certificates and that their personnel are properly trained and have the correct credentials.
During a disaster, NAS typically deploys one ambulance and a three-member crew at a time, but it depends on available resources. If there is a shortage of personnel, NAS will not send anyone.
Even though NAS personnel are at the ready, Wood said it was unlikely that his crews would be deployed for Hurricane Isaac relief. Nonetheless, NAS members are prepared for any storm.
“We are always getting ready because this is the height of hurricane season,” said Wood. “Even if Isaac was not coming to Louisiana, we would be getting ready, anyway.”
Most of NAS' members have been through disasters before. Crews assigned to go have to have “72-Hour Go Kits” that contain food, water, rain gear and other clothing. Each member also needs to have his or her own kit with toiletries and money.
“It’s challenging, but it’s a very rewarding thing,” said Wood. “In a disaster setting, everyone comes together to make it work.”