WMVFC mem­bers re­call hur­ri­cane aid

The Avenue News - - FRONT PAGE - By: GIANNA DECARLO gde­carlo@ches­pub.com

The mem­bers of the White Marsh Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany keep res­i­dents from all over Bal­ti­more County safe dur­ing emer­gen­cies. Last month, they took their ser­vice and brav­ery out­side of Bal­ti­more’s bor­ders to pro­vide aid in the hur­ri­caner­av­aged ar­eas of Texas and Puerto Rico

When a call was put out, ask­ing for first re­spon­ders all over the county to drop every­thing and pro­vide aid for these se­verely dam­aged ar­eas, John Am­rhein and Kevin Palmer of the WMVFC an­swered.

They were de­ployed in early Septem­ber where, af­ter a few weeks in Hous­ton, Texas to ser­vice com­muni- ties af­fected by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, they were im­me­di­ately trans­ferred to Puerto Rico to deal with the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Irma.

“Our abil­ity to help fel­low Amer­i­cans in a time of need was ex­tremely hum­bling. The na­tion was im­pacted by 4 hur­ri­canes, 3 of them were ma­jor hur­ri­canes and im­pacted Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the USVI. It was amaz­ing to see such a mas­sive and co­or­di­nated fed­eral re­lief ef­fort,” said Palmer.

The two men are mem­bers of the Mary­land Dis­as­ter Med­i­cal As­sis­tance Team 1, which falls un­der the Na­tional Dis­as­ter Med­i­cal Sys­tem. The NDMS

sys­tem falls un­der the purview of the U.S. De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices. Their mis­sion is pri­mar­ily med­i­cal re­lated, said Palmer, who func­tions as a Para­medic on the team.

“We are re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing dis­as­ter med­i­cal care in ar­eas im­pacted by nat­u­ral or man-made disas­ters. We also pro­vide med­i­cal standby dur­ing Na­tional Se­cu­rity Spe­cial Events. In this in­stance crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture was dam­aged such as hos­pi­tals, shel­ters, clin­ics and road­ways; there­fore we es­tab­lished an emer­gency room in tents,” ex­plained Palmer.

In Puerto Rico, their mis­sions var­ied from sup­port­ing dam­aged hos­pi­tals, evac­u­at­ing pa­tients off the is­land, es­tab­lish­ing med­i­cal shel­ters, and pro­vid­ing food and wa­ter to re­mote ar­eas.

In Texas, Am­rhein was as­signed to a make-shift pa­tient care cen­ter in­side one of the prac­tice gyms of a lo­cal high school where he worked twelve hours shifts do­ing pa­tient in­take, triage, ba­sic med­i­cal treat­ment, ad­vanced level treat­ment and pre­par­ing pa­tients for trans­fer to de­fin­i­tive care cen­ters. He said he treated every­thing from a sim­ple cut to trau­matic in­juries.

“I learned that when the chips are down, there are peo­ple who still can pull to­gether to make things hap­pen. This ap­plies to both the vic­tims of the storm and the re­spon­ders. The vic­tims are amaz­ingly re­silient and a good at­ti­tude dur­ing a low time can go a long way,” he said.

“Some­times just talk­ing with these folks pro­vide them the re­as­sur­ance and strength to re­cover from the dis­as­ter,” added Palmer.

De­spite the harsh­ness of the con­di­tions they were work­ing in, it was the acts of hu­man brav­ery and re­siliency that kept the vol­un­teers go­ing. He re­calls one story where 21-year old who was help­ing his neigh­bor tear out a wa­ter­logged bath­room when a large piece of tile fell, cut­ting his head and caus­ing a large lac­er­a­tion on his leg. How­ever, he quickly ban­daged it with pa­per tow­els and duct tape and kept work­ing for sev­eral more hours un­til the job was done.

“Ev­ery de­ploy­ment is a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. You work with doc­tors, physi­cian as­sis­tants, nurses, res­pi­ra­tory ther­a­pists, paramedics, and phar­ma­cist from all over the Coun­try. Each of them bring an area of ex­per­tise from their day to day job. You al­ways walk away with learn­ing some­thing new,” said Palmer. “In ad­di­tion, you are able to take away lessons learned re­gard­ing mass causal­ity care, dis­as­ter med­i­cal care, and pub­lic health emer­gen­cies. You also get a sense of cul­tural dif­fer­ences that ex­ists in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try. In Puerto Rico, it was a tad chal­leng­ing for me, be­cause I am not flu­ent in Span­ish, but by the time I left, I had the ba­sics down”

De­spite the work of thou­sands of vol­un­teers like Palmer and Am­rhein, Hous­ton and Puerto Rico are still re­cov­er­ing. Palmer said the best thing we can do to help at home is fol­low­ing FEMA who man­ages vol­un­teer as­sis­tance pro­grams, on so­cial me­dia. FEMA will post ways com­mu­nity mem­bers can help and what do­na­tion items are needed. Am­rhein urges res­i­dents to do their re­search be­fore do­nat­ing to an or­ga­ni­za­tion, as many fake char­ity groups will try to scam peo­ple out of money in the wake of tragedies.

He also said peo­ple should be pre­pared at home and have sup­plies and a plan ready be­cause nat­u­ral disas­ters can hap­pen to any­one.

“Be pre­pared, that is the key along with the abil­ity to adapt to sit­u­a­tions.”

The WMVFC is cur­rently lo­cated in­side a build­ing that is nearly 70 years old. In Novem­ber of 2016, the County broke ground on the com­pany’s new sta­tion on 10301 Philadel­phia Rd.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the or­ga­ni­za­tion, visit www. wmvfc.org.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE WMVFC

The crew of the White Marsh Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany.

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