Help from NWI heads to East Coast
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent October 29, 2012 4:42PM
Harold Blum, of Chicago, takes a break from photographing kite boarders long enough to watch a wave crash onto a walkway at Walhalla County Park in Whiting Monday Oct. 29, 2012. High winds and big waves attracted a number of kite boarders from across the region. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 1, 2012 6:21AM
Northwest Indiana manpower arrived along the East Coast all day Monday to lend a helping hand once “Frankenstorm” makes its way across the region.
Russell Shirley, Indiana Department of Homeland Security District 1 task force commander, said the disaster response team comprised of departments in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper and Newton counties sent five rigs and nine personnel to Atlantic City, N.J., to wait for the aftermath of Hurrican Sandy. The teams arrived there Monday.
“They are literally at the bull’s-eye for the hurricane. They are just a few miles from the airport,” Shirley said.
The task force received an alert Friday evening that services might be needed. By Saturday morning members learned they would deploy. The team departed 2 p.m. Sunday from Crown Point to rendezvous with the state’s other task forces in Indianapolis before heading on to Atlantic City.
Task force members from St. John, Crown Point, Lakes of the Four Seasons and a local ambulance service were mobilized. The team includes four ambulances and one command vehicle, each staffed by two personnel. Initially, the Indiana deployment was to help with hospital and nursing home evacuations, but now that the storm is in full swing they are awaiting new orders that will come in the storm’s aftermath.
Shirley said most of the Indiana districts have sent personnel to assist. He estimates about 150 task force team members have been deployed statewide.
Prompt Ambulance Service was tapped for assistance.
“We were contacted (Sunday) afternoon by a division of FEMA and were requested to send seven ambulances to Fort Dix in New Jersey by (Monday) afternoon,” Ronald Donahue, communications director, said via email.
Fifteen crew members in seven ambulances and one chase vehicle departed from the Merrillville location at 1 a.m. Monday and drove through the night to Fort Dix. Donahue said the team will get its next assignment from FEMA in Fort Dix.
Nick Meyer, director of external communications for Northern Indiana Public Service Co., said the company has freed up two dozen contractors to head to the East Coast to help with power restoration after the storm.
“In terms of additional support at this point we are waiting to see what the storm brings to our area before sending any other crews,” Meyer said.
High winds are expected as early as tonight that could potentially cause local outages or downed trees that affect power lines. NIPSCO will continue to monitor the weather and establish its emergency plan as needed as the storm develops and tracks west.
“We are just being cautions,” Meyer said.
In a news release, he said the utility company would increased staffing at the customer call center, scheduled extra work crews to handle any system problems, postponed scheduled work that would require equipment to be out of service and put work crews out in the field to monitor the system and respond to any problems.
He reminded people to avoid any downed power lines and report them by via computer at NIPSCO.com/OutageCenter by calling 1-800-4NIPSCO (1-800-464-7726).