Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Disaster Assistance Response Teams—rescuers on the rivers

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine. By U.S. Coast Guard LT Steven Peelish and LCDR Jesse Stevenson.

Floods are common in the Midwest, causing extensive damage to area infrastructure and greatly impacting or endangering those living and working there.

Disaster Assistance
The U.S. Coast Guard has created a unique team designed to help evacuate those caught in the middle of this devastation. These disaster assistance response teams (DARTs) work with local emergency operations centers to:

· provide search and rescue support,
· transport victims,
· provide essential waterborne logistic support,
· assure delivery of vital supplies and materials,
· maintain access to storm-damaged areas for key response personnel.

Coast Guard members operate 16-foot flood punts—shallow-draft, flat-bottomed boats ideally suited for this kind of work. The days can be long and the work dangerous. The teams operate in unfavorable weather conditions and uncharted water, often working in cities with school buses, street signs, tree tops, and other unknown hazards lurking beneath the surface.

Sector Disaster Assistance Response Teams
Whenever flooding is anticipated, the DARTs are placed in “standby” status. Teams are normally deployed via land, with a support convoy following close behind. If the destination is farther than 12 hours’ driving time or floods destroy roads and bridges, the Coast Guard coordinates transportation via military aircraft.

Floods of National Significance
The Western Rivers’ floods of 1937, 1993, and 1997 are among the largest seen in recent times, and Coast Guard disaster assistance response team forces responded to them all. DARTs were also called out to aid efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Isabelle, which ravaged and isolated portions of the Outer Banks in 2003. Disaster assistance response teams also played a critical role in search and rescue efforts during the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Staying Mission-Ready
Hurricane Katrina took its toll on the aging 20-year-old fleet of flood punts, so the Eighth District decided to replace them with new, more modern equipment. The new boats, trailers, and engines will be standardized throughout the Coast Guard. The single-axle open trailers currently in use will give way to larger twin-axle ones that are fully enclosed to protect the gear from the elements.

The new design of the boats will allow members to efficiently maximize space, store vital gear, and provide a more stable platform. New four-stroke engines will replace outdated two-stroke engines to better align with what the Coast Guard is currently using.

Humanitarian Efforts
Through the years, disaster assistance response teams have been deployed to various “hot spots” in flooded areas. They have rescued the stranded, evacuated the sick, and delivered water and groceries to “die-hards” who would not leave their homes.

They have patrolled homes, farms, neighborhoods, and local businesses, assisting those in need and guarding property from looters. Even in their off time, DART members help fight back the waters by filling sand bags and pumping water back over the levees.

About the authors:
LT Steven Peelish has served in the Coast Guard for 18 years and is a former BM1. With three marine safety unit river tours, he has acquired a vast knowledge base of marine safety and security on the Western Rivers.

LCDR Jesse Stevenson has served in the Coast Guard for more than 27 years. He was prior enlisted, obtaining the rank of MKC before his commission. With his diverse background, he has served in many capacities, including aboard three ships, earning his permanent cutterman’s pin.

For more information:
Full article and “U.S. Coast Guard Western Rivers Sectors” edition of USCG Proceedings is available at www.uscg.mil/proceedings. Click on “archives” and then “2007-08 Vol. 64, Number 4” (Winter 2007-08).

Online survey available at: http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/survey.asp.

Direct requests for print copies of this edition to: HQS-DG-NMCProceedings@uscg.mil.


James Thomas said...

I just want to thank the authors for posting such great information. I am applying to SRDC 2010, and I was looking everywhere in search of in-depth information as to exactly what I might be doing as a Reserve Officer near St. Louis. This Blog provided a wealth of information. Thanks again!