By Angel MedFlight Contributor
It was a year ago this week that Superstorm Sandy came ashore in New Jersey and left thousands in the Mid-Atlantic region homeless in its wake. It is during disasters like these — natural or man-made — that we see the critical role emergency medical personnel play in survival as well as recovery.
As Superstorm Sandy sent record-breaking ocean swells into New York City, flooding large sections of Lower Manhattan and seven subway tunnels, officials along the coast had enacted pre-established emergency plans and evacuation procedures. Residents in homes can often evacuate themselves, but what about the sick and infirm lying in hospital beds or at assisted living facilities? They required specialized transport and it was experienced critical care medical personnel who often came to the rescue. Throughout the East Coast local, state and private medical transportation services banded together to evacuate thousands of people from health care facilities.
In New York City, emergency medical workers rescued some 40 newborn babies from New York University’s Langone Medical Center in Manhattan. Just hours after the storm had flooded parts of the city, one of Langone’s backup generators failed. Hundreds of patients needed to be evacuated including dozens of newborns. According to a report by The Associated Press, one of the newborns was Kenneth Hulett III, who weighed only two pounds when emergency medical workers rescued him. They rushed him out of the hospital’s intensive care unit and down some stairs while hooked up to an oxygen tank. Ambulances were used to transport hundreds of patients to other hospitals.
It takes intense emergency planning to tackle an event like Superstorm Sandy. According to a report from EMS World, in the four to five days prior to Sandy coming ashore, the New Jersey EMS Task Force established two regional EMS staging areas, as well as a helicopter base for air medical operations. In addition the state implemented the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), which initially requested 75 ambulances from out of state to help assist with health care facility evacuations. In all, 39 hospitals and 196 nursing homes in the Garden State lost power because of Sandy and more than 1,500 health care facility residents were evacuated.
Many of Angel MedFlight’s air ambulance medical crew members have worked as EMT’s and thus we have a special bond with our brothers in the EMS community. Our flight nurses and paramedics are also at the ready, standing by to offer long-distance medical transport to critically ill or injured patients.