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Local paramedic flies to Philippines to assist typhoon victims
POULSBO — Poulsbo Fire Department Paramedic Jake Gillanders, an Urban Search and Rescue team leader coordinating a group from EMPACT Northwest, flew to the Philippines Nov. 11 to assist with typhoon recovery efforts.
The typhoon is one of the most powerful recorded typhoons to ever hit land, and is likely the deadliest natural disaster to occur in the Philippines.
As 195 mph winds were hitting the Philippine coastline, Gillanders and EMPACT Northwest disaster teams were preparing to deploy a joint medical and rescue team. The first 72 hours of any disaster are critical in terms of medical and rescue support and, according to the group’s Facebook, “Boots are on the ground, Philippines.”
EMPACT Northwest is a non-profit organization comprised of an all-volunteer force of medical and rescue professionals dedicated to providing aid and training to those in need in our communities and around the world. EMPACT Northwest has assisted in Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Haiti, Japan, and now the Philippines. Volunteers offer their own time and resources to assist after natural disasters.
Mallory Wall-Tweten, public information officer for EMPACT Northwest, said the group’s mission plan is:
— Establish base in Tacloban.
— Assist in creating fuel distribution network with fuelrelieffund.org, which has donated $250,000 in fuel to the relief effort.
— Make contact with any local governmental or disaster response officials, should any be present, and support local efforts.
— Make assessments for the needs of the area including but not limited to medical support, victim transport, search and rescue support, shelter support, and field management.
— Make contact with partner organization Comprehensive Disaster Response Services, which will be supporting logistics on the ground.
Gillanders, who is no stranger to natural disaster response, said in an interview with KING 5 News, “This is the largest typhoon in human history. We have no idea what we will find. There is no precedence for this.”
EMPACT’s team of medics, nurses and rescue technicians flew from SeaTac to Taipei and caught a connection from Taipei to Manila. Once on the ground, they made their way to Cebu City, connecting with EMPACT’s contacts on the ground and partner organizations.
In an email Nov. 12 to Poulsbo Fire, he wrote, “We're headed to the city of Tacloban, which was the hardest hit city in the PI. Once in Manila, we’ll be catching a Philippines Air Force C130 to Tacloban and then working directly with a Philippines’ police unit — providing light rescue, field medical and assessment capabilities.”
Poulsbo Fire Chief Jeffrey Griffin said Gillanders chose to use his personal vacation to assist in the Philippines. “Jake proves his high skill levels as a paramedic for our citizens and I am confident he will be a great help and comfort to all he is serving in the Philippines,” Griffin said. “We are very proud of Jake and look forward to his safe return.”