Medical Strike Team Deploying To Louisiana As Gustav Aims For Gulf Of Mexico

Eleven vehicles, 26 personnel to leave early Saturday morning from Baltimore. So. Md. Red Cross vehicle departed Thursday.

REISTERSTOWN, Md. (Aug. 29, 2008) - A medical strike team with emergency responders from several Maryland jurisdictions will leave for Louisiana early Saturday morning as Gulf Coast states brace for Hurricane Gustav. The Maryland group will include five advanced live support ambulances and six support vehicles staffed by 26 individuals.

"Because natural disasters are not contained by geographic boundary, neither therefore should our ability to respond to them," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "While we don't yet know the potential impact of this storm, it is nonetheless our responsibility to answer the call for assistance from our friends along the Gulf Coast, as we did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and will continue to do."

Louisiana issued a request for strike teams on Thursday through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a process that allows state-to-state mutual aid in times of disasters. Several other states also have offered assistance to Gulf states.

"Because Hurricane Hanna is a potential threat to the East Coast of the United States later next week, we were careful not to over-commit our resources," said Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Director Richard Muth. "But it is important that the states work together whenever a part of the country is threatened with a major storm."

Units and personnel from Baltimore City and Charles, Howard and Harford counties will be joined by colleagues from LifeStar, a private ambulance service. They are expected to leave around dawn Saturday from the Baltimore City Fire Academy to begin the 20-hour long trip to a staging site in Alexandria, La. A staff member from the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) will travel with the convoy.

The response was coordinated jointly by MEMA and MEIMSS in coordination with other state and local agencies. MEMA has been monitoring both Gustav and Hanna during conference calls with officials from various federal agencies, other states and local jurisdiction in Maryland.

The Southern Md. chapter of the American Red Cross is also ramping up to render assistance. Emergency services volunteers experienced in sheltering, feeding, and health and mental health services are on stand-by and the chapter’s emergency response vehicle (ERV) departed Thursday headed south to preposition for the storm.

According to Mike Zabko, CEO, the local chapter's pool of disaster service volunteers is short staffed and they are currently recruiting drivers that desire to work with the Red Cross locally and on deployments throughout the US on disaster assignments.

Zabko asks for interested volunteers to call their office toll-free at 1-888-276-2767.

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