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AirEvac crews deployed as Florence hits

Administrative and operational members of AirEvac Lifeteam, headquartered at Jackson Purchase Medical Center in Mayfield, are seen in the photo above. One helicopter and a total of six members are now in Spartanburg, S.C., to assist in medical emergency efforts as Hurricane Florence strikes the East Coast.

Photo courtesy of AirEvac Lifeteam

BY TOM BERRY The Mayfield Messenger

Two AirEvac Lifeteam crews, including one helicopter ambulance, were deployed from Jackson Purchase Medical Center in Mayfield to South Carolina to provide emergency medical assistance as Hurricane Florence blasts the East Coast with 105 mph winds and torrential rains.

Including the Mayfield crews, AirEvac has deployed 12 helicopter ambulances and a total of 72 crew members to the area as the reported Category 2 hurricane continues to surge, according to an Associated Press report.

Allen Jones, program director for AirEvac operations at Jackson Purchase Medical, said Thursday morning that the hospital teams have been deployed to help in any way they can.

"The Mayfield aircraft was deployed (Wednesday) morning and landed safely in Spartanburg, South Carolina," Jones said during a telephone interview with the Mayfield Messenger. "The crew that I sent by ground arrived there safely (Wednesday) night. So we presently have six members from Mayfield's 108 base there."

Other teams from other parts of Kentucky as well as Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio and Tennessee also have been deployed. AirEvac is an emergency medical transport network provider for American Medical Response, which is under contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that requested the assistance.

However Jones pointed out that the company's responsibility to respond to local emergencies would not be affected while the teams are away.

"This will not affect our ability to provide coverage to any of our communities in any way," he said. "We have our bases contiguously placed just for this reason. Our sister bases will be able to respond to scenes and medical emergencies and transport any patients to medical facilities in western Kentucky. So there will be no delay and no lull in medical coverage."

The crews are expected to remain on deployment for one to two weeks, but possibly longer.

"The crews will stay in the area as long as needed," company officials said in a news release.

In South Carolina, the crews will work under FEMA as well as state emergency management officials providing both emergency and non-emergency transportation when needed.

Jones said the crews are ready to do what they can to help.

"I spoke to the crews (Thursday) morning. They are in great spirits. They are just in kind of a holding pattern to see what Hurricane Florence does and then take their orders for deployment after the hurricane reaches inland."

According to Associated Press reports Thursday afternoon, Florence was closing in on both North and South Carolina and was expected to move ashore today.

For many of the AirEvac teams, this is the first time they have responded to a national emergency, however Jones pointed out that the company has the highest confidence that they will perform their duties professionally.

"Several of those folks have participated in local and state emergencies that we have had, but something federally - to this magnitude - no," he said. "To my knowledge they have not, however they are all trained and certified to respond nationally to these types of events."

Ted Van Horne, AMR's president and CEO, said in a news release that support provided by AirEvac and similar first-response entities are appreciated.

"When disasters of this magnitude occur, we appreciate the support of all the EMS agencies who come together to work tirelessly on behalf of the affected communities," Van Horne said.

Jones said he's proud of the local teams and is sure they will do their jobs well.

"I am very proud of this group of folks that went to help in another part of the country leaving their family members behind, and I just pray that everybody involved -- those folks on the coast and all of our AirEvac Lifeteam crew members -- are safe. We hope to see them come home safely," he said.