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COML Blog - Superstorm Sandy COML Blog - Superstorm Sandy

Weather forcasters weren't the only professionals working overtime in the hours preceeding Hurricane Sandy's trek towards the U.S. east coast.  As the giant storm loomed, Indiana first responders prepared to activate teams to help response and recovery efforts. The Integrated Public Safety Commission's Steve Skinner (who also serves as the Statewide Interoperability Coordinator) was asked to deploy with the 15-person state Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) in the Communication Leader (COML) role.  The IMAT team, which includes public safety professionals from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Indiana University, Indiana Department of Correction, Indiana Office of Technology, Montgomery County, the City of Lafayette, Indiana State Police and the Family and Social Services Administration, left Indiana at 6 a.m. on Sunday, October 28 and arrived in Maryland at 10 a.m., ahead of Sandy.  Following an initial deployment to Ocean City, Maryland, the IMAT was redeployed to Long Island, New York. The words below are from Steve's email accounts of the response and provide a view of what conditions are like during a disaster as large as Superstorn Sandy.

  • Sent: Fri 11/2/2012 11:50 AM
         Greetings from the City of Long Beach on Long Island, NY. Everything you have seen on TV is true! As we approached New York state from New Jersey yesterday evening, we began to see long lines at gas stations, experienced heavy traffic and diminished cell phone service. Lights were out in many places. We got off the interstate in Western New Jersey to go to a Walmart. The lines at the gas stations were amazing! The lines of cars were 1-2 miles long. Police were directing traffic at every station. Groups of 25-50 people were gathered around pumps with portable gas cans. All waiting! Walmart had power but it was a zoo!
         4 of us worked for 5 hours while enroute to find rooms anywhere. We never did. It is the weekend of the New York Marathon, you know! We ended up buying sleeping bags, air mattresses, blankets and pillows at Walmart. The combined group of 56 slept in the 16 rooms that District 7 already had obtained at the Marriot.
         Anyway, the combined IMAT, District 7 and District 2 Task Forces are now deployed together in Long Beach. We are set-up inside tents inside a parking garage next to the Long Island Railroad station. There are no trains. There are towing the flooded cars out of the garage to make more room. We are under the approach path to JFK.
         Long Island is similar to Ocean City, MD. Long and thin. Two and one-half square mile, 35,000 residents. Most did not evacuate. District 7 has been here a few days and has done a great job, so far. However, they have not had time to create an IAP. We hope to have one for the OPS period tomorrow. OPS only runs 12 hours. Everything is locked down and guarded by the National Guard at night. Many residents are still here. Power is not expected to be restored for 15-30 days.
         Life is good though. We’re working as a team and learning a lot. However, we went from eating seafood in Ocean City on Wednesday evening to eating MRE’s and drinking bottled water.
       So much from the Front. More later.
    -Steve
  • Sent: Mon 11/5/2012 10:57 AM
         We all survived the weekend. Resources are really flowing into the area per our requests and we are getting things fixed and coordinated as quickly as possible.
         Randy Collins brought in “Twiggy”, the super Volunteer Organizations Coordinator at Henryville, last night to help us get that portion rolling here.
         The FEDS brought in a DMAT (Disaster Medical Assistance Team) out of Texas. It arrived last night and are set up for any medical/hospital needs. The can basically do anything but dialysis. The hospital here is not running. They are pumping out the water and getting it ready for inspection.
         They are getting generator power hooked up to City Hall. Employees reported for work today. Chuck Emsweller and I are working with theie cable provider to get the fiber lit so that they will have Internet and can perform some functions.
         We all lost our original lodging on Friday. We could not find anything in the area. We ended up spending one night in midtown NYC not far from Times Square. The drive in and out were horrible. The tunnels remain closed and our GPS units kept trying to route us through them. We finally go to be about 1030 PM after a 14 hour day and we were up at 0400 to start back. Yesterday, we moved to a huge, new volunteer firehouse in Jericho, NY, about 25 miles away. Women on one floor, men on another. 4 showers for all. 30 40 guys in one big room on cots and air mattresses with lots of snoring. It was a welcome relief, though, not to be dragging everything back and for the from our trucks every day. We should be there for the duration.
         FEMA is bringing in 2 teams to replace us, a Type 1 and a Type I team. We are located in Long Beach. They will set up in Atlantic Beach and Lookout Point, both ends of the island. We do feel proud that they need to bring in 2 more qualified teams to replace us. FEMA said they would be willing to send us anywhere in the US for anything!
        We are bracing for the pending NorEaster forecast to arrive mid-Wednesday through mid-Thursday. Predictions indicate the possibility of 2-4 inches of rain, possibly turning to snow, and steady winds 40-50 with gusts to 60. We are starting to sandbag critical facilities so that we don’t lose what we have already fixed.
         They have water pressure now but testing has not passed yet. No power, cable, internet yet. Cellular is spotty. My MIFI is a great help. We had 8 more dropped shipped here.
         Demob is still scheduled for Sunday, 11/11/12 from JFK.
         More later as time permits.
    -Steve
  • Sent: Wed 11/7/2012 10:26 AM
         Well, we are hunkering down for the impending Nor’Easter. Winds are picking up now to about 25 steady with gusts to 35 and it is beginning to rain. We have taken down one of the larger tents and brought in a much larger one for central feeding. The two smaller tents are sandbagged and tied off to the fencing. We are under the first floor of an open parking garage and that helps some but the sides are starting to flap and we can’t get it above 55 degrees inside.
         We have decided to move half of the team back to the mainland to the Jericho, NY fire station (our new home away from home). That means Finance, Planning, the Time Unit and Chuck Emsweller (half of the COMMS unit) will go to the mainland. I am staying here with the rest of the Command staff.
         Hurricane force winds are expected in New York Harbor tonight. That is just South of us and between us and the mainland. The bridges to the mainland are expected to close soon. Clean-up and debris removal has slowed to a crawl and will be stopped as winds increase.
         We have still not been able to secure a food contractor. Red Cross is very sporadic in their service to us. We are still eating MRE’s.
         The DMAT (Disaster Medical Assistance Team) is fully setup and will soon be bringing in a surgical team to support their operations. The hospital remains closed.
         City Hall is now powered by a generator but they will not be bringing in their full staff until next week.
         Power continues to be restored a little bit at a time. Some stop lights are now working. As power is restored, some house are catching on fire. We have had some car fires as people try to start cars that were flooded with salt water (I don’t know why, don’t ask!).
        They have good water pressure but the tests have not come back good yet. So, no drinking water to the island yet.
         More later.
    -Steve
  • Sent: Thu 11/8/2012 7:53 AM
        Well, the winds were not too bad. Flooding at a minimum on the island. However, we have about 6 inches of heavy, wet snow. Trees were beautiful this morning but many were bending and some have broken. We are not sure if we have more or less power on the island. They were supposed to energize more sections over night but it is really hard to tell. Winds are supposed to be strong today.
        All of the belongings piled on the curbs in front of every home are now white. Temperatures should reach the low 50’s today so the snow won’t last long.
        The team is fully deployed together. We have moved from the 3, separate tents into one larger tent meant to be used as a field hospital. So, we have lots of light and electrical outlets and we are all working in one big room. It is a “one stop shop” now.
        More responders moved into the firehouse over night and we are expecting some additional National Guard troops around 8 AM. There was barely room to walk amongst the cots and sleeping bags the way it was. It will be one pulsating room when we get packed in there and everyone starts snoring tonight! All of the different alarm sounds (from cell phones) is still funny when they go off at 5 AM!
        The firemen cooked for us last night. It was great to have a hot, sit down meal. They are really good cooks, too! Everyone got to relax a little.
        Plans have changed for District 2 Task Force (South Bend area). They were supposed to fly out of JFK on Sunday with us. They will be chartering a bus and leaving on Saturday instead. They had a lot of equipment and armed personnel that would have complicated their flying anyway. District 7 (Greencastle,Terre Haute area) will be packing up their tents and support trailers and starting home Saturday morningalso. The State IMAT (Us) will be left to run a diminished OPS period on Saturday, then, we are done also at 6 PM. We are trying our best to get the locals primed for our departure. They have become accustomed to us just handling certain things which allowed them to concentrate on their own personal recovery. That may stop on Saturday. We have not gotten word who, if any, teams will be relieving us.
        More later.
    -Steve