Local Ambulance Crews Are in Virginia on Hurricane Duty - FOX 14 TV Joplin and Pittsburg News Weather Sports |

Local Ambulance Crews Are in Virginia on Hurricane Duty

Joplin, MO -

Five local ambulance crews are in Fort Lee, Virginia  ready to help with evacuations or victims of Hurricane Florence.
Its not the first time they've reported for disaster duty.

The strike teams as they are called includes three ambulances from the Newton County ambulance district and two from Joplin METS. They currently sit waiting with nearly two hundred other ambulances at Fort Lee.
 Ronnie Jones spoke to KOAM in a telephone interview from Virginia and said, "Everybody's trying to be patient and trying to relax a little bit. Kind of like the calm before the storm."

s the fourth hurricane deployment for Jones, a paramedic.

Matt Watts, a battalion chief for METS who responded to hurricanes Ike, Katrina, Gustav and Harvey. Knows what theyll face.  "It is crazy. Its hot. We sleep in our ambulances a lot of the time,"  said Watts.

And he said after being one of the first crews in during Hurricane Harvey, they found themselves, like storm victims, without power.
Watts explained,
Very little food. We eat MRE's. It's hot dirty work."

Strike team crews take incident command classes and have required vaccinations.

Ambulance crews can be part of a task force paired with fire departments or police but their mission is two-fold. Watts said, "We can evacuate people before the storm gets there if need be if they need an ambulance for nursing home  patients, hospital patients. Then they stage us a little  further out from where the storm is gonna effect the region and we can come back  in and take care of anybody that needs to be rescued."

Newton county ambulance district  has fifteen ambulances and  it sent three  reserve vehicles.  Regularly six are on duty at all times and that won't change during the deployment.

Chief Rusty Tinney with Newton County Ambulance District said,
We only send what we can back fill. I mean we have about fourteen people that are qualified to go. So, the crews that are gone now, the  other crews backfill their shifts."

But METS officials said the deployment does have an impact.
Watts said, "That
s four people that arent covering shifts anymore. Of course we pay overtime for the crews to come in and cover those shifts that are open."

The ambulance crews are contracted by a private company call AMR, American Medical Response which is a subcontractor for FEMA. 
          FEM pays AMR which pays for the local crews and for gas and expenses.

Still, after response to Joplin's destructive tornado, they're all willing.

Tinney said, "We certainly feel the compassion for what  those people are going through and we want to return the help we received." 
And from Virginia, Jones recalled, "The outpouring of services, not just local and the four states but from across the county, the nation, it seemed like the right thing to do."


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