An emergency medical services region in East Tennessee that includes Anderson County is sending a strike force of five ambulances and one command vehicle to Florida to help respond to Hurricane Irma.
The ambulances, crews, and command vehicle are from a 16-county region known as Region 2 in Tennessee, said Nathan Sweet, director of Anderson County EMS.
Anderson County EMS is sending one ambulance and two employees. The two employees are Paramedic Michael Rhinehart and AEMT Justin Harmon. (An AEMT is an advanced emergency medical technician.)
Rhinehart and Harmon left at 8:45 a.m. Friday, and they headed to Lenoir City to meet up with the strike force. From there, they are going to Chattanooga to meet up with a strike force from Region 1. It’s not clear yet where they will be deployed.
State officials, Florida officials, and federal officials have been involved in the activation of the strike teams that are responding to Florida, Sweet said.
They could be required to help with emergency medical services. Also, there could be people in hospitals and nursing homes that aren’t able to evacuate, Sweet said. And the emergency medical crews could provide relief to first responders in Florida.
The EMS crews prepare for the worst, but they might only have to help with transfers, Sweet said.
Rhinehart and Harmon could be gone for two to three weeks. Sweet told them to expect to be gone for three weeks to be on the safe side, including so their families could be prepared.
It’s not clear where they will stay. That will be coordinated by the emergency management agencies that are on site, whether they are state or federal agencies, Sweet said. Among the places the emergency medical crews could stay are hotels and emergency shelters.
The last out-of-area disaster that the Anderson County EMS responded to were the Sevier County wildfires in November.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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