BATTLE CREEK, Michigan –
While the East Coast cleans up from Hurricane Isaias, Florida first responders are already preparing for the next hurricane or other emergency that may arise, thanks in part to gear received from the Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services.
Bill Dowdy, captain of the emergency response team for the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, said his county is a magnet for hurricanes. He said the western side of the county has a mass grave for the thousands of citizens who lost their lives in a 1927 storm. Three storms also hit the county in 2004.
As Isaias approached, Dowdy said the county’s three former military light medium tactical vehicles acquired from DLA were disbursed around the area. But, he added, they are pretty much always on standby because the state is so flat.
“Everything is just barely above sea level,” Dowdy said. “If we get a couple days of rain, we flood, especially on the east coast.”
Dowdy explained that the department’s four-wheel drive utility vehicles could not successfully navigate the three to four feet of floodwaters often seen during storms. Officials had been using an aging one-and-a-half-ton truck until Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in 2017.
“We saw the water out there; we knew about the water we had here,” Dowdy said. “We saw the military using those trucks in Texas, and we’re like, ‘okay that’s what we need.’ That is when we put in the request to get some.”
In the nearly three years Martin County has fielded the trucks Dowdy says his office has stocked them well for rescue operations, with some of the additional equipment also coming from the Defense Department’s 1033 program, managed by DLA’s Law Enforcement Support Office.
Dowdy said the trucks “are there to help citizens,” which means they carry chainsaws and rope to clear the way in emergencies. They are also equipped with first aid kits, backboards, flotation devices and can transport paramedics.
Hurricane Isaias spared Florida, remaining out to sea as it passed by, but Dowdy said a few days after it passed, Martin County was hit by a storm that caused flooding. The trucks were pressed into service for that event.
“Those trucks are a godsend,” Dowdy said.