Oregonians head to Florida to help as Hurricane Ian makes landfall

Author: Mike Benner, Alma McCarty (KGW)

PORTLAND, Ore. — The early images of Hurricane Ian slamming into the coast of southwest Florida on Wednesday is concerning even to those familiar with disasters.

“We are certainly keeping tabs on it,” Alison Green of the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office (OSFM) said. “It’s definitely a widespread impact.”

The agency is sending 13 people from its incident management team (IMT) to Florida, said Green.

“We are lucky and fortunate we have folks who have done this before,” Green said. “This isn’t our first deployment to support a hurricane.”

They’ll be responding to Tallahassee, Florida to receive further orders as far as the response to Hurricane Ian, according to Brett Deedon an OSFM IMT member.

“So our initial response given the team is to be augmented into the Emergency Operating centers in Florida where we’re to be designated once we get there,” said Deedon. “But remaining flexible at this time we’ll be able to help out with the emergency response and the individual communities within Florida.”

Green added that Oregonians will handle everything from public information support to logistics and operations planning.

“It not only takes folks to restore power, fix infrastructure, and save lives,” Green said. “It also takes folks heading up those entire support systems to hopefully get folks back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

Red Cross Cascades is also sending volunteers to Florida. Seven people are in Florida or on the way. An additional 20 volunteers are on standby and ready to respond if necessary.

Two of those volunteers on standby were Chris and Amber Schwartzkopf.

“That means, getting on a plane and flying wherever they send us,” said Chris, “We may be as far north as Georgia… we might be in south Florida for two weeks, or anywhere in between.”

The couple has been volunteering for the Red Cross for a couple of years, helping shelters and with logistics after all kinds of natural disasters across the country.

“It absolutely gives me a lot of hope,” said Emily Venable.

Venable very much appreciates the Oregonians heading to Florida where she was born and raised until moving to Tualatin two years ago. Venable’s family still lives in Florida. Her parents live in one of the mandatory evacuation zones and had to move inland to safety.

“My level of concern is a 27 level just because my parents are older,” Venable said. “This is the first storm that’s come since I’ve been so far away and I can’t be there to help which I normally jump into that mode. Being across the country is a little strange.”

Venable will be closely monitoring Hurricane Ian, just like the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office, with team members deploying to the hurricane zone.

“We’re helpers,” Green said. “We’re firefighters. We want to go and help so any time that call comes in we’re fortunate we have folks trained and able to answer the call.”

The team from the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office will be in Florida for at least 14 days.

Anyone interested in helping those affected by the storm can make an online donation to the American Red Cross.

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