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Local man assists FEMA at disasters

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NEW ROSS — Wherever the next disaster strikes, Kyle McHargue is ready to respond.

McHargue, 31, a Walnut Township firefighter and EMT, has joined an ambulance team sent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to areas affected by hurricanes and other mass incidents. The crew, largely made up of EMTs from Indianapolis-based American Medical Response, was deployed to the East Coast earlier this month as powerful Hurricane Dorian crawled toward land. 

Their ambulance joined the convoy of emergency vehicles from across the nation headed to Miami. When the forecast shifted, the crew was diverted to South Carolina, arriving two days before the storm began lashing the state.

“It rained, I don’t know, for two or three days in Columbia,” McHargue said.

The group spent the next week on standby, training for scenarios with five other ambulance crews at the University of South Carolina’s football stadium. More than 12,000 federal responders were dispatched to the state, according to FEMA.

EMTs practiced for search and rescue operations, evacuating hospitals and nursing homes and providing first aid. 

“It was learning experience but we did a lot of staging, going over scenarios,” said McHargue, who joined Walnut Township’s fire department in 2006.

In Charleston, he said 200,000 people were stranded in a hospital without electricity, but local authorities handled the response. 

The team was also not part of the rescue efforts in the Bahamas, where the Category 5 storm flattened thousands of homes.

The storm killed at least 53 people in the Bahamas, but the death toll is expected to rise. More than 1,000 people remain missing. 

American Medical Response contracts with FEMA to assist in the disaster response. McHargue has been placed on call for future deployments. 

“Any disaster from now on, I will be officially invited,” he said.

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