Mass. aid teams head to Florida

A flood-rescue team from the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department made its way along San Marco Boulevard in the downtown area as Hurricane Irma passed by Monday.
A flood-rescue team from the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department made its way along San Marco Boulevard in the downtown area as Hurricane Irma passed by Monday.Associated Press

Equipped with their own food, water, and camping gear, nine nurses from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center headed to Florida Monday to help people cope with health problems in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

The nurses planned to fly from Logan International Airport to New Orleans, rent two SUVs, and then drive 5½ hours to a state emergency operations center in Tallahassee. There, they said, Florida state officials would give them marching orders.

Their mission is expected to last two weeks.

Meg Femino, Beth Israel’s director of emergency management, said she expected the nurses will be sent to a shelter for residents who have health problems but who are not so badly injured or ill that they need to be hospitalized.


“We expect that there will be a lot of people with chronic health issues,” Femino said just before boarding a Jet Blue flight at Logan. “You worry about people who might need dialysis in a few days — things like that — so we’re geared up for whatever they need.”

Femino is a veteran of disaster-relief efforts. She traveled with a medical team to help Haitians after an earthquake there in 2010 and to Nepal after a 2015 earthquake in that country.

Most of the nurses on Femino’s team trained in March at the Center for Emergency Preparedness in Alabama. There, they learned how to work without food, electricity, or communications.

“We put a lot of work and effort into it in March, so it’s gratifying to know we can put what we learned to use and be helpful in Florida,” said Phillipa Breslin, a nurse manager at the emergency department at Beth Israel in Milton.

Breslin said was “excited but a little anxious, too.”

“It’s my first time doing this,” she said.

Others from Massachusetts are also heading to Florida. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said it was coordinating deployment of the 12-person Northwest Massachusetts Incident Management team. The team will support response operations, including rescues. The team was expected to leave Monday and be deployed for about two weeks.


An 18-person Massachusetts National Guard public affairs team is also heading to Florida to work with the news media. The team was expected to leave by Tuesday and be deployed for up to 30 days, state officials said.

A three-person emergency operations center support team, composed of state employees, and a nine-person nursing team from the Beth Israel Deaconess system are also being sent.

The help is in response to requests made through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, the national mutual-aid system.

The monster storm arrived in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane. Weakened but still dangerous, it was pushing inland Monday. No deaths in Florida were immediately linked to the storm. But on its way to Florida, the storm killed more than two dozen people on Caribbean islands, and concern was rising about lawlessness in the wake of the chaos.

Michael Levenson can be reached at michael.levenson@globe.com. Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.