When Hurricane Sandy hit New York in late October, LaGrange wasn’t directly affected, but one local paramedic was helping evacuate patients before the superstorm struck.
Robert Copeland, a paramedic at the LaGrange office of American Medical Response, was part of a team that went to New York under a contract AMR has with FEMA for emergency response. In all, 385 ambulances from AMR and contracted companies responded to the storm area.
Copeland was called up on Oct. 27, as the storm was beginning to make its path from the Bahamas toward the northeast, for the 15-hour drive to New York. He helped evacuate patients with medical needs from different areas, like hospitals that lost power. Paramedics from AMR worked with officials from FEMA and New York police and firefighters during operations.
Paramedics would ensure that patients received the medications and help they needed as they were moved from facilities at risk to other areas that were safer. As they were evacuating people from Long Island, they encountered the outer bands of the hurricane as it was starting to reach the shore of New York with high winds and rain.
Copeland, who has been with AMR since 2005, had never been to New York before, and “I hated to see under those circumstances.” He and other responders spent the most dangerous part of the storm in a shelter, but still saw water as it began to come heavily into New York.
Teams responding to Sandy helped with different tasks, with some of Copeland’s team being involved in disaster planning. Volunteer crews setup meal tents for crews, and people from across the country that were part of the various organizations called in by FEMA made up and command post.
“There was so much stuff, but it operated,” Copeland said.
For, Copeland, who spent nine months in Afghanistan, the seven days he spent in New York during Sandy weren’t overwhelming. He said working during the hurricane was a good opportunity and experience.
“It really was good cooperation between FEMA, the New York Fire Department, New York Police Department, National Guard and everybody up there,” Copeland said.