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Green firemedics offer help, hope in Sandy aftermath

12/6/2012 - South Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

Shown above top, Green Fire Department firemedic Josh Compton stands among Superstorm Sandy’s destruction in Seaside Heights, a tourist community on the Jersey Shore. Compton was sent in late October to aid in relief efforts. He also is shown above bottom with fellow members of Ohio Task Force 1 conducting search and rescue operations.
Photos courtesy of Josh Compton
GREEN — Following Superstorm Sandy’s landfall in late October, victims in the hardest hit areas were left without electricity, running water, food and medicine, and some were left without shelter.

From left, Green Fire Department Lt. Pete Deevers, firemedic Josh Compton and Capt. Jeff Funai recently were deployed with state and federal agencies to assist in Superstorm Sandy relief efforts.
Photo: Emily Chesnic
Three firemedics with the Green Fire Department, however, jumped at the chance to immediately leave the comfort of their own homes — regardless of what awaited them — to aid in the storm relief efforts in New York and New Jersey.

Firemedic Josh Compton, Lt. Pete Deevers and Capt. Jeff Funai were deployed through state and federal agencies to assist in the storm’s aftermath and happily answered the call of duty.

“It was neat to help out and have a meaningful role in making things a little better,” Funai said.

Funai was deployed Oct. 30 with the Ohio All Hazard State Incident Management Team (IMT), a group of trained individuals who work to augment local emergency personnel, according to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. For two weeks, he helped man the Suffolk County Emergency Operations Center in Long Island, N.Y., coordinating the daily efforts of numerous agencies and organizations reporting to duty.

Compton and Deevers were sent Oct. 29 with Ohio Task Force 1, one of 28 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) teams specialized in urban search and rescue. The two spent a week and a half stationed at Fort Dix, a U.S. Army base in Burlington County, N.J.

The trio already had experience in responding to disasters. Funai, a 20-year firemedic, has been part of the IMT since it started in 2006 and helped with relief efforts following flooding in Ottawa in 2007, a train derailment in Painsville in 2007 and Hurricane Irene in 2011.

Compton, a 13-year firefighter, has been with the Task Force since 2007. Deevers, a 25-year veteran of the Green Fire Department, joined the Task Force three years ago. The pair also provided aid to the East Coast following Hurricane Irene.

The three said they were prepared for duty but were moved by the dedication of local emergency responders whom left their own crumbling homes and scared families each day to help others.

Funai said he worked 14 hours a day, beginning each day at 7 a.m., to support and fortify the more than 500 relief groups in place. His entire time was spent at the emergency operation center, coordinating the daily responsibilities of the aid workers.

“It went really well,” he explained. “What a horrible thing, though. The people were just devastated. Homes were wiped out and properties destroyed.”

Compton spent much of his time providing rescue support 12 hours a day or more in Brooklyn and Seaside Heights, located on the Jersey Shore.

He described Seaside Heights as having “mass destruction.”

“Homes were off their foundations. Boats and cars were thrown all over the place,” he explained. “The area was destroyed.”

Compton said he searched Seaside Heights and Brooklyn for those in need of medical attention by going door-to-door.

He found many residents of Seaside Heights had evacuated. In Brooklyn, however, he discovered numerous people desperate for help.

“We were there to provide food and water and assist in any way we could,” Compton explained. “We were able to give some reassurance.”

Deevers spent his time at Fort Dix working as a logistic specialist, putting in 14-hour days. His responsibilities included picking up and delivering Federal Emergency Management Agency supplies and setting up sites for the distribution of blankets, water and fuel. He also spent time aiding the people of Brooklyn, specifically making sure individuals did not run out of prescription medications.

“It was wonderful to have the opportunity to go and help people,” he said. “Everywhere we went, we heard gratitude, too.”

Compton said he also is thankful he could assist in any “little way.”

“I would rather offer a small bit of assistance than sit back and watch others doing it on TV,” he said.

Funai added, “It really was rewarding to give a little relief, comfort and peace.”

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