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Sequim helps suppress Hurricane Sandy
Locals provide relief and medical attention
by MATTHEW NASH
A few locals put on their service hats recently to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Three paramedics from Clallam County Fire District 3, Capt. Bryan Swanberg, Capt. Chris Turner and Firefighter/EMT James Brown, deployed Oct. 31 to New York with the 42-member Washington-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (WA-1 DMAT) that included doctors, nurses, pharmacists, police officers and more.
The Olympic Peninsula Chapter of the American Red Cross also sent a team of trained volunteers to the Northeast, including Zane Beall, 23, of Sequim, who helped deliver food in New Jersey.
The firefighters began working immediately after they arrived at South Nassau County Community Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y., a few miles from Long Beach.
Hurricane damage had led to the closure of a nearby hospital and Nassau was packed with patients.
“They were seeing an overabundance of patients at 400-percent capacity,” Swanberg said.
Brown said hospital beds lined the hallways and they accepted anybody who came in.
The crew provided relief for the hospital, working 12-hours shifts in a tent outside. In the 11 days they were there, firefighters treated more than 1,100 patients with problems ranging from general weakness to colds and coughs. They provided tetanus shots and treated lacerations for those injured removing debris from their homes.
Swanberg said there was little time to investigate the devastation but he was able to view the area more while on a trip to pick up water and food. He saw living room carpets, appliances and countless other ruined possessions in streets and on sidewalks that relief crews would later pick up.
“There wasn’t more high water, but some people still had it in their houses,” he said.
Swanberg said one sight that stood out was the “mile-long” lines for rationed gasoline.
“People were carrying gas in whatever they could,” he said.
Brown found locals’ dedication inspiring as they worked hard to clear out their homes and help each other.
“They weren’t sitting down,” he said. “They are definitely prideful people.”
Turner found himself close to the hospital staff as he learned their stories. Many of them found themselves homeless after the storm and living in the hospital.
“They lost just as much as the other locals and they continued working,” Turner said.
Swanberg said when he first arrived, he met a doctor who had been on shift a few days straight.
The Washington team was relieved by a Florida relief team on Nov. 11. Swanberg said that when they left the hospital was down to 200-percent capacity.
Putting it in perspective
Down the coastline from the firefighters, Beall, disaster services coordinator for the local Red Cross, delivered food to Atlantic City and Tuckerton Beach in New Jersey from Nov. 1-16 as part of a team with the American Red Cross.
Beall said he’d deliver food in affected areas from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3:30-6:30 p.m. daily, and saw affected areas all the time.
He was amazed to see all of the relief agencies come together.
“It’s amazing how a major disaster makes us forget about all our differences,” he said. “It’s cool to see people put things aside and get things done.”
As a local disaster services coordinator in Sequim, Beall said while in New Jersey he heard people say they never thought the hurricane could happen to them.
“Be prepared in your home as if you’re not going to be the first one the first responders go to,” he said.
“Be self-sufficient and prepared for three days of water and food and so on but that’s being very optimistic.”
For Turner, he said seeing the devastation is a good reminder that anyone could be affected by storms or an earthquake.
“I have a 72-hour kit at home, but it’s not enough,” he said. “These people back in New York are going to be without some things for a while.”
Relief efforts continue as some people live in shelters and receive assistance from agencies like Red Cross, which reports its 2,300 workers have served more than 100,000 meals and snacks. To donate to the Red Cross’ efforts, visit www.redcross.org, call 800-733-2767 or text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions also may be sent to the “Olympic Peninsula Chapter Red Cross” at 151 Ruth’s Place, Sequim, WA 98382.