Local groups head to Texas to help Harvey victims

SAN DIEGO -- A San Diego-based medical response team and American Red Cross volunteers traveled to Texas Friday as now-Tropical Storm Harvey bears down on the state.

The 48-member Disaster Medical Assistance Team CA-4 includes doctors, nurses, pharmacy personnel, paramedics and specialists in security, communication and logistics.

"Many of the issues that may result from Hurricane Harvey can already be anticipated -- massive flooding will require medical care for thousands of evacuees, and hospitals may be in the flood zone and might require evacuation," said Dr. Jake Jacoby, the team leader. "We are honored to be selected to stage for this serious situation, especially if the hurricane stalls when it is over both land and water."

DMAT CA-4 is part of the federally coordinated healthcare system under the National Disaster Medical System. They will meet with other federal resources to be ready for assignments in patient care, evacuations, and medical services, they said.

The San Diego and Imperial counties chapter of the American Red Cross said three volunteers have deployed to Texas, and more deployments are possible in the coming days.

Red Cross volunteers assist with relief efforts including feeding and sheltering storm victims, damage assessment, casework and recovery assistance.

Other Red Cross volunteers are working from home as dispatchers and taking calls from residents in Texas.

California Task Force 8 was activated Saturday to go to Houston.

“We have four hours from the time of activation to actually be wheels moving and en-route to our locations,” Battalion Chief David Gerboth with San Diego Fire Rescue said.

Fourty-five members of the California 8 Task Force worked quickly to pack up nearly an entire warehouse.

They loaded up several trucks full of food, water and life-saving equipment.

“Water rescue boats. We carry hazardous materials response capabilities,” Garboth said.

The task force anticipates the main focus of this mission will be rescuing people and pets from flood waters.

“The precipitation that is expected in Texas can range anywhere from 15 to now they’re talking even 48 inches and are expecting catastrophic flooding,” Garboth said.

Each of the Task Force 8 volunteers are preparing for at least two weeks of hands on, hard work.

“The people that are here are here because they want to be here. They know that the dedication is sometimes extreme. The environments that we’re tasked to go into are oftentimes not the most pleasant. They’re going to be difficult. Conditions will be difficult so everyone is here on their own accord,” Garboth said.

They are difficult tasks that will pay off in the end.

“There are very few experiences that you can go through that create the bonding that happens out there when you’re in those adverse conditions and everyone relies on everyone else and also know the good you did when you’re out there making rescues and actually saving lives,” Garboth said.

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