Several experienced Israeli rescue and aid organizations are gearing up to assist the victims of Hurricane Irma.
With a 12-member team of volunteers currently working in the clean-up operation following Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, the Israeli ZAKA Search and Rescue organization is also establishing command centers in advance of the expected damage from Hurricane Irma in Miami, Florida.
As millions of residents are fleeing the hurricane, tens of volunteers from the ZAKA International Rescue Unit, Hatzalah Miami and the Amudim organization have established two command centers to offer assistance to the local communities when weather conditions allow.
The command centers are equipped with generators, sleeping bags, tinned food, water and all the relevant specialist search, rescue and recovery equipment.
ZAKA volunteers are also standing by in the New York area.
ZAKA International Rescue Unit Chief Officer Mati Goldstein stated, “ZAKA has accumulated extensive experience and significant expertise in tens of natural disasters around the world, offering assistance in search, rescue and recovery to those in need. We intend to offer help in the best and most professional way we can, focusing on evacuation of stranded residents and treating the wounded. The preparation of the last few days means that we are ready, and at the same time, we hope that we will be able to enjoy Rosh Hashana safely with our families.”
ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav added, “ZAKA volunteers are currently spread out across Florida and Houston and, if necessary, we will send volunteers to other areas as well. These volunteers are more concerned with helping others than thinking about themselves. They are there, in the name of the Jewish people, to help and show real solidarity in keeping with our values and the promise that ZAKA has taken to help everyone, Jew, Christian or Muslim. ZAKA will help all those in need, regardless of race, religion or gender.”
In addition, Goldstein sent a letter to all ZAKA volunteers and other community personnel in the areas in the hurricane’s path to offer important advice on how to operate to the benefit and safety of the residents.
Doing the Most They Can
Similarly, the directorship of the Israel Rescue Coalition (IRC) met on Thursday in order to make plans for deployment to Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Members of Israel’s Search and Rescue Units, as well as medical and psychological first aid responders from United Hatzalah (UH), discussed plans for deployment and it was decided that the team would be deployed in Miami on Sunday morning.
“Our teams have already begun assembling data and connecting with local teams on the ground in Florida as well as the Israeli consulate and getting regular updates and assessments from the ground,” said Dov Maisel, Director of International Operations for the IRC as well as Vice President of UH. “We spent the day gearing up so that we can make a quick departure on Saturday night in order to arrive in Florida on Sunday morning, hopefully before the full bunt of the storm hits.”
The team will consist of eight members leaving from Israel who will be joined in Florida by four people from the US who will be running logistics and organizing community response.
Among the team members making preparations to depart are a team of search and rescue veterans who are trained for rescues on land and by sea, diving teams, veteran EMS and natural disaster personnel, as well as a group of Psychotrauma and Crisis Response unit members following the success of this unit’s deployment in Texas last week.
“We’re trying to get out in front of this as much as possible. With resources and volunteers already heavily engaged in Texas, if Irma strikes hard in Florida, people on the ground there will need as much help as they can get, and we are not hesitating to deploy and assist in any way we can,” said Maisel.
This is the IRC’s fourth international mission in three years having had members dispatched to Nepal following the 2015 earthquake, to Haiti in 2016 following Hurricane Matthew, and most recently in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.