Two Harford County men were among the 13 deployed from Maryland on Sunday to help with rescue efforts in parts of North Carolina ravaged by Hurricane Florence last weekend.
Robert Stanton, who works part-time for the Harford County Department of Emergency Services as a technical rescue team crew chief and full-time for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, and Andy Hayes, of Jarrettsville, who works for the Baltimore County Fire Department, are part of the Maryland Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team that is assisting in rescues over a period of 10 days.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan authorized deployment of the team, which includes two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters with eight crew members, and three maintenance technicians, according to a news release from Hogan’s office.
In addition to the technical aid, Harford is assisting North Carolina in other ways. This includes a Jarrettsville Veterinary Center which helped rescue shelter animals even before the hurricane hit.
The county has also included links on its home page, www.harfordcountymd.gov, for people who would like to help North Carolina and other areas hit hard by Hurricane Florence throughout the weekend beginning Friday.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has recommended monetary donations, and the county has provided links to the American Red Cross and the United Way, according to Cindy Mumby, a spokesperson for the Harford County government administration.
A Maryland National Guard helicopter rescue team has been sent to North Carolina as Hurricane Florence pounds the state's southern coast. The state is also opening two shelters, in Prince George's and Queen Anne's counties, for storm evacuees.
The Maryland Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (or HART) is “one of the highest risk things you can do,” Mike Berna, a team program manager, said Tuesday.
Maryland’s HART team joins those in Texas and North Carolina as being among the first in the United States. Team members are thoroughly vetted and highly trained, and go through a one-week “indoctrination process” that is rigorous and demanding, Berna said.
Baltimore County began the team, then at the beginning of this year opened it up to other counties: Harford, Howard and Montgomery participate, Berna said.
North Carolina reached out to states across the country through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact for resources, including a HART team, Mumby said.
The Maryland Emergency Management Agency accepts those requests, then determines which jurisdictions have someone qualified to meet the needs. Harford County Executive Barry Glassman must approve the deployment, Mumby said.
“We talk about this all the time — disaster can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime. We prepare here locally, but sometimes were are so overwhelmed, we wouldn’t meet our needs with just our local resources,” Mumby said. “We are helping our fellow Americans as we would hope they would help us if the situation were reversed.”
The team is working in 12-hour shifts, Berna said, so one is flying all the time.
“The operations don’t stop, we’re engaged 24/7 right now,” he said.
The team operates in a grid search pattern to look for and rescue people in immediate danger. They also perform “asset allocation,” surveying communities from the air to determine where help is most needed, Berna said.
Fifteen dogs rescued from North Carolina were brought last week to the Jarrettsville Veterinary Center, where they were examined by one of the practice’s vets, Dr. Krista Magnifico.
Ten of them came to the veterinary center through Animal Rescue Inc., an animal shelter in New Freedom, Pa.
Jennifer Taylor, office manager for the Jarrettsville Veterinary Center, and Heidi Ingle, a client at the practice, drove to North Carolina Thursday to pick up the other five.
The five Taylor and Ingle picked up were dogs whose stray holds were up.
“The shelter was very worried about flooding and the dogs that were left there could have drowned,” Taylor, who is also vice president of Black Dogs Company Rescue of Darlington, said. “They were desperately looking for a rescue to take the remaining dogs.”
Nineteen dogs were left Thursday; Taylor said five was as many as they could take in their car.
Those five Taylor and Ingle rescued had been removed to the shelter at 8 a.m. Thursday morning and were driven 3 ½ hours to meet the Harford pair. The road into the town the shelter was in closed a few hours after the dogs were removed, Taylor said.
The dogs came in Thursday, were examined by Magnifico and their medical needs addressed, Taylor said. Three need to be spayed and one needs heartworm treatment, which Jarrettsville Veterinary Center will provide.
“I’m considering keeping him because I’m getting attached,” Magnifico said.
The Jarrettsville practice has always done a lot of work with rescue groups especially when the weather is extreme, she said.
“We offer free boarding for dogs who are tied out, so if it’s really cold, they have a place to stay and if it’s really hot, they have a place to stay,” Magnifico said. “It’s part of our ethos here, we don’t turn away a client who needs help.”
Taylor had no reservations about making the long drive to get the dogs.
“I very much love animals and they are so incredibly trusting of us,” Taylor said. “The fact that we as a society would have failed them in a natural disaster… so if I could save five, I was going to do it.”