Saturday, October 24, 2015

FDNY Heeds the Call in South Carolina

FDNY DART team members assess flood damage outside a home on Jackson Bluff Road in Conway, South Carolina, where the roadway was still partially flooded weeks after the storm.
Story and photos by Jay Bonafede, American Red Cross

“Tell us what you need, we’ll get it done.”

Doug Bainton and the other members of the New York City Fire Department’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) have been getting it done as Red Cross partners for 25 years. Currently, 13 active duty and retired FDNY members are in South Carolina, where they’ve been providing relief and comfort to people after this month’s historic flooding since they arrived on October 12.

“This is kind of what we do,” Bainton says. “We help people for a living. This is just another way of doing it.”

This unique partnership began during Hurricane Hugo in 1989, when the Red Cross made a request for Spanish-speaking volunteers. Some FDNY members were able to help, and a year and a half later, they formed a response team made up entirely of firemen. Over the past 25 years, Bainton says the DART team has helped the Red Cross respond to disasters in every state in the union.

“It’s a way to give back,” Bainton said. “9/11 was obviously a big deal for us, something that will never go away. Half the world has already forgotten what happened here in South Carolina. We understand what that’s like.”

"Even some locals don't know that there's still houses underwater," said FDNY Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) member Doug Bainton. The DART team recently brought Red Cross relief supplies to Jackson Bluff Road and the Lee's Landing neighborhood of Conway, South Carolina, where roads had only just became accessible three weeks after the state was hit by historic flooding. Red Cross disaster assessment and casework teams are now making their way into the neighborhood to help people begin their recovery process.

The DART team members--who donate their FDNY vacation time to deploy to these disaster sites--have done everything from driving Emergency Response Vehicles to running warehouses during their 25 years as Red Cross response partners. This week, the DART team did disaster assessment and brought clean-up supplies to residents in Lee’s Landing and other Conway, S.C. neighborhoods that remain so water-logged, one of the team’s vehicles became temporarily stuck in the mud.

“We’re often the first agencies to bring help to these people. That’s important,” Bainton said of the DART team and the Red Cross. “We get a lot of hugs. Grown men will sometimes start crying, and then you start crying. All they need is that minute, and then they’re fine. And they’re so grateful someone is helping them. That’s why we come back.”

FDNY DART team members leave Red Cross relief supplies outside a home in the Lee’s Landing neighborhood of Conway, South Carolina, where yards remain underwater weeks after flood waters reached their highest points.

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