GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — People from West Michigan are headed to areas in the path of Hurricane Dorian as residents along the coast brace for its landfall.
Walker Fire Department Lt. Dean England along with Grand Rapids Fire Department Lieutenants Joaquin Martinez, Josh Veldkamp and Curtis Walsh left Michigan at 4 a.m. Monday.
They are part of Michigan Task Force One, which is made up of 36 first responders from all over Michigan who are trained in specialized rescue operations.
They’re skilled in handling everything from digging out victims trapped in collapsed buildings, to people caught in swift-running floodwaters.
They’ll join teams from all over the US in the south.
The firefighters will stage in Tallahassee, and get sent to where they’re needed.
A West Michigan nurse volunteering with the American Red Cross is also headed south.
Louise O’Donnell will be in South Carolina.
“I go down as a nurse to try and help make sure that not only the folks in the community who are impacted, but also the volunteers who are helping all stay healthy as possible during this time of crisis,” O’Donnell told News 8 ahead of her flight Monday.
She has been responding to hurricanes since 2016. Each time is different, and she can be gone anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
“It’s rewarding in a very sort of twisted way,” she explained. “Sometimes it can be extremely rewarding just walking alongside somebody who’s having a bad day or a bad week, depending upon the disaster. Just being there with them takes a lot of energy both emotionally and physically, but it’s extremely rewarding because those folks know they’re not alone.”
O’Donnell will first check on different shelters to ensure people have needed resources. No one will be traveling during the hurricane, but she and other American Red Cross volunteers will then help as needed after the storm.
“All of us do whatever needs to be done. I could be unloading supplies off a truck or I could be opening cots in a shelter, or I could be making xerox copies of forms. It could be anything,” O’Donnell said. “We all jump in. We help out. Someday, hopefully, it never comes, but someday they may need to come and help us, so it’s all hands on deck.”
Coastal companies welcoming out-of-state help
Companies around the country are also heading south to respond to anticipated power outages. Consumers Energy previously had crews on standby but were later given the all-clear.
“There are companies from Michigan, there are companies from California, Nevada, Arizona, New York, they all come down,” Vacuum Dig Operations Manager Joseph Prince told News 8.
Vacuum Dig contracts with Florida Power and Light on restoration efforts.
Prince is currently staged in Fort Myers and says they’re coordinating with companies that have sent crews from across the U.S. to ensure the quickest response possible.
“Electrical work doesn’t change from state to state, so they all have the same work experience and history,” Prince explained. “There might just be a few different things because we have a lot of water in the ground. That we might do a bit differently than say digging up in New York City, so that’s where the differences come in, but we all work as a team and we get things accomplished.”