Three emergency responders to help out Sandy victims
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Capt. Chris Turner, Capt. Bryan Swanberg and firefighter/paramedic James Brown, from left, pause before heading to the New York/New Jersey area with Washington-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team on Wednesday.

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM — As newspapers were delivered across the North Olympic Peninsula, three firefighter/paramedics from the Sequim and Carlsborg areas were up early today to help those hurt by one of the worst storms the East Coast has ever seen.

Capts. Chris Turner and Bryan Swanberg and firefighter/paramedic James Brown, all of Clallam County Fire District No. 3, boarded a plane bound for the New York and New Jersey areas in the wee hours of Wednesday to help out with Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, said Patrick Young, District No. 3 spokesman.

The three district personnel are part of a statewide disaster medical assistance team that includes doctors, nurses and other emergency responders activated to help triage those injured and prepare them for transport to local hospitals, Young explained.

“It's probably similar to the old MASH [Mobile Army Surgical Hospital] units,” Young said.

Hurricane Sandy swept past the Caribbean and up the eastern seaboard of the U.S. on Monday, killing at least 63 people and leaving nearly 6 million customers across the eastern United States still in the dark Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

The storm will end up causing about $20 billion in property damages and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business, according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.

FEMA team

The disaster medical assistance team, organized on a national level by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is one of several in the state that are on call during different months of the year, Young said.

The District No. 3 personnel applied with FEMA to be part of the team, Young said, and each has been a member for the past few years.

Young said the usual deployment for the three firefighter/paramedics, whose shifts are being taken over by other District No. 3 personnel, would be up to two weeks.

“They could be deployed longer than that if the scale of the emergency warrants that,” Young said.

Young said District No. 3 encourages members to sign up for service with these medical assistance teams so they can share the skills they'll learn with their communities.

“So every event they go and get experience on, they bring that experience back to us in case of a disaster here,” Young said.

The three who traveled to the East Coast also are members of a number of other statewide special response teams, Young said.

Swanberg and Brown were part of a group that traveled to Central Washington to help fight this summer's wildfires.

A survey of other fire districts on the Peninsula found no others participating in the FEMA teams.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 31. 2012 6:07PM
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