Local emergency response team on standby to help in aftermath of Florence

J. H. Osborne • Sep 13, 2018 at 9:42 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Region 1 Ambulance Strike Team, a cooperative effort of emergency response organizations from eight Northeast Tennessee counties, is on “standby” status for potential deployment to coastal South Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Florence. And the region’s “AMBUS” — a bus converted to an ambulance for multi-patient transport — headed to Myrtle Beach, S.C. late Monday night.

That AMBUS, manned by Washington County EMS employees, has since helped evacuate some of the thousands of patients moved from healthcare facilities near the coast to facilities further away from Florence’s projected path, Region 1 Ambulance Strike Team Coordinator Jim Perry said Wednesday afternoon.

Perry, chief of Sullivan County EMS, said the Region 1 Ambulance Strike team originally was put on alert this past Saturday. That meant putting together a roster of equipment and personnel from various organizations across the eight-county region for potential deployment. A strike team deployment typically consists of five ambulance, two people to work on each, a leader, a lead vehicle and an equipment trailer.

By the time Perry readied the list (two ambulances and their required workers from Sullivan County EMS, and one ambulance each from Washington County EMS, Greene County EMS, and Hawkins County EMS) the state relayed a new message: South Carolina authorities were requesting only the Region 1 AMBUS, so the Region 1 Ambulance Strike Team could stand down until further notice.

Perry said the Region 1 Ambulance Strike Team has since been told to expect to be “on alert” come Monday, to respond to Florence’s aftermath — or to to arrival of other storms tracking behind the hurricane.

“It’s been a fluid situation,” Perry said, noting the decision to have the team stick around Northeast Tennessee during the “first wave” of activity from the storm would make sure its resources are here at home if they are needed due to local flooding.

Perry said since arriving in Myrtle Beach, the Region 1 AMBUS had transported patients from Grand Strand Medical Center (to Jacksonville, Fla.) and Tidelands Georgetown Hospital (to Florence, S.C.). Once they dropped off their last run of patients on Wednesday, Perry said he expected the AMBUS to to demobilized and head back to our region.

The protocol for this type of mutual aid between states is thanks to a federal law called the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).

Tennessee organized its EMAC response teams several years ago, and emergency response agencies within the eight Northeast Tennessee counties that make up Region 1 agreed to participate. Members of each agency went for specialized training at the Tennessee State Fire Academy. They’ve been put on alert prior to and after prior natural disasters, but their response a year ago this week to Hurricane Irma in Florida marked the first time the Region 1 Ambulance Strike Team deployed.


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