Heartland paramedics deploy to Hurricane Florence

Heartland paramedics deploy to Hurricane Florence

DEXTER, MO (KFVS) - A group of paramedics from the Heartland have traveled to the East Coast to help with emergencies during Hurricane Florence.

Five paramedics and two ambulances from Stoddard County, Missouri arrived at the US Army Garrison Fort A.P. Hill due north of Richmond, Virginia Wednesday. They’re awaiting orders from FEMA to help with Florence in any way they can.

Chuck Kasting has been on natural disaster strike teams with the Stoddard County Ambulance District since the program started in 2007.

Kasting estimates that at least 600 ambulances and more than 1000 paramedics have responded to the natural disaster area.

“Hurricane Florence is possibly a Category 4 storm once it hits the coast, so its going to cover a very wide area,” Kasting said. “So this takes hundred and hundred of ambulances to do this.”

But before Hurricane Florence makes landfall, he says they be helping people evacuate people who have stayed behind from coastal towns and take them to safe areas inland.

“When you are down there they want you running lights and sirens everywhere you go because it is an emergency situation and we’ve got to act quickly," Kasting said. “And you are still going to have people that stay behind, and when we go and we have to get them, they are very thankful that we are there. And again they ask, ‘Where are you from?’ We are from Missouri and they are very humbled by that.”

Kasting says paramedics will hunker down when Hurricane Florence hits, but when it’s gone they will start transporting people back to hospitals and shelters near the coast.

He says it can be overwhelming to travel places after a hurricane hits because of the high winds and massive amounts of rain.

“It can look just like a war zone. I mean there is a debris everywhere. There are trees down, roofttops," Kastiong said. "I mean last year when we went to Irma. Going down through the Florida keys, we are literally driving around vehicles that were washed into the road. Nobody is allowed on those roads except for emergency personnel. Whether it be Fire, EMS, law enforcement, and electrical workers to restore power.”

Under their contract with American Medical Response, Kasting says the rescue team from Stoddard County can be at a natural disaster for up to 45 days but thinks they will be back in about two weeks.

He added that they have plenty of staff and vehicles still in Stoddard County so they’re not stretched too thin.

“We will continue to run our everyday calls. It is business as usual here,” he said. "If a disaster was to happen here locally we are still prepared and have a strike team here standing by ready to respond at a moments notice.”

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