Five years ago, Brick Township received help from across the country during the response to Superstorm Sandy. Over the last several weeks, it was time to repay the favor.
For 22 days, a team of Brick employees worked nonstop, 12-hour shifts in St. Thomas and St. John, two of the Caribbean islands devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria. The operation included logistical and operational difficulty, but members of the Brick Police EMS squad as well as the public works department rose to the challenge, helping hurricane victims get the medical care they needed in the storms’ wake.
“It was kind of repaying the favor for what we received during Sandy,” said Police Chief James Riccio, who helped organize the effort from home.
The police department asked for volunteers to travel to the storm zone, and soon after, they loaded a special four wheel drive emergency vehicle from the township’s fleet onto a military transport plane and were on their way. The mission, Riccio said, was responding to EMS calls in the islands, amidst damaged infrastructure and communications challenges.
“They were just devastated,” said Riccio, who recently welcomed the team back.
The group of Brick employees who made the trip included several emergency medical technicians as well as a mechanic from the public works department. During their time on the islands, the crew integrated with and assisted the U.S. Virgin Islands EMS system in handling over 200 calls. They also repopulated an assisted living facility, transferred critical patients over to fixed-wing aircrafts for medical evacuation off the islands, provided medical services to clinics in remote locations on St. John, and engaged with the residents through a community outreach program.
The Brick team went to the islands with a Brick Police EMS four wheel drive special services vehicle, which was purchased in the aftermath of Sandy.
“The entire experience was both humbling, and educational,” the police department said on its social media page. “We will forever be indebted to the love, and respect that we have received from the US Virgin Islands community.”
Other New Jersey agencies helping included the N.J. State Police, Hudson County OEM and the state EMS Task Force. FEMA will reimburse the township for its man-hours spent on the operation, Riccio said.