Wisconsin emergency volunteers are continuing to play a part in providing disaster relief to the East Coast in light of damage left behind after Hurricane Sandy.
Members of the Wisconsin-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (WI-1 DMAT) were deployed Saturday to Middlesex, New Jersey, according to a statement by the City of Madison Fire Department, and one of the heads of the department is aiding in providing relief along with other Wisconsin volunteers.
The WI-1 DMAT is part of a national system, which has more than 60 teams, created to be on call to provide assistance in the event of large-scale emergencies. According to the MFD statement, DMATs provide extra medical assistance and help with logistics and administration, as well as with the equipment needed to provide medical services in rough environments.
Wisconsin’s team is made up of volunteers from around the state, the statement noted, adding MFD Assistant Chief Jim Keiken is among the volunteers that are helping out on the East Coast.
Jason Liu, acting commander for WI-1 DMAT, said Keiken is one of six medical personnel who make up Wisconsin’s team. There are 17 other DMAT teams that are also currently deployed in the east coast. The teams primarily provide relief for local hospitals by creating field hospitals and treating those affected by disasters.
Keiken and the rest of Wisconsin’s team arrived Saturday, partnering with Florida’s team in establishing a field hospital in Middlesex Community College’s gymnasium.
This 248-bed field hospital is providing 24-hour medical assistance. Keiken said they mainly provide acute care, which he said “eases the work load” for local hospitals. He said helping the community out after the devastating storms will be something he remembers for the rest of his life.
“It has been a tremendous experience in spite of the tragedy of the event,” Keiken said. “It has been rewarding to help people in their time of need, and it will definitely be one of the most memorable things I have ever done.”
Despite lack of power and resources and a three-inch snowfall Wednesday night, Keiken said the people affected by the hurricane maintain positive attitudes.
Keiken added the community knows the nation is supporting them, and they appreciate the help.
Liu said maintaining that support, as well as the support of people around the world, is important in ensuring the community stays strong. He also congratulated the team for their work.
“These events have long term consequences,” Liu said. “There’s a lot of wide-spread damage. It’s important to stay aware and do what we can to support our fellow citizens, not just in the weeks to come.”
Keiken agreed with Liu, saying people need to be mindful of how devastating the hurricane has been. He added people need to be prepared for such disasters, as they can occur anywhere.
They both encouraged the public to continue thinking about and helping the victims of the hurricane. Anything from donating time to volunteer groups to donation to charities is beneficial, Keiken said.