Guest Post By: Thea H. Burke, RN, BSN
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I drove into a silent metropolitan city at dusk where there were no street lights glowing, no traffic lights flashing; there were no lights at all, anywhere. It was an eerie experience. This normally congested inner city was as desolate as a moonscape. Those are some of the signs of terrible destruction left in the wake of disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes. I was there to help.
I’m a nurse. I can’t fix power poles and lines and transformers that have been destroyed by Mother Nature. Honestly, I really can’t fix anything electrical. But when I do contract work for Storm Services, I have the opportunity to indirectly help get the ‘lights back on.’ A very rewarding experience.
How does that work? Storm Services can take care of the food, sleeping quarters, laundry or first aid for those hundreds or thousands of power company workers from across the country who come in to an area of devastation to repair all that critical electrical infrastructure. If first aid or any type of medical services are requested for the crews, that’s where I come in.
My husband and I are the Storm Services Medical Team. We find the nurses who man the first aid sites for our Company. Medical services at a site generally means we offer just basic first aid services, or whatever level of care contracted by the power company. My husband and I work sites when we can, but we are limited by our license coverage. Sometimes, as in the northeast, we contracted with locally licensed nurses for the 15 or so sites spread over 2 states where we offered medical services. Keeping staff and supplies at so many sites was quite a challenge, but though we worked long tough hours, it was a great experience. We met terrific nurses who enjoyed being able to help.
What does all this look like on the ground? Just like the storms, no two Storm Services sites are set up the same and they are certainly never ordinary. The picture in my mind of the sites where I have worked, are of long, orderly rows of white sleep trailers and shower trailers, a laundry trailer or two and a generous line of porta pottys. It can vary, but food is usually served in a giant tent set up beside a cook tent or trailer. All of this is on an asphalt parking lot with good ingress and egress for the hundreds of bucket and work trucks that go out each day to ‘get the lights on.’ Generators supply all the power for our sites. After a while, the sudden silence will wake you in the middle of the night when the generator stops working. When it’s an ice event like Hurricane Sandy, the heat blows all the time, but you never take your coat off. For a summer event like Hurricane Irma, cold air is blowing into the tent all the time through mammoth tubes, and you sweat in your scrubs; all the time.
First aid? Describe that. It’s basic stuff. Below your level of expertise? Storm Services nurses work within our scope of practice and triage out to a higher level of care as needed. It is surprising how much our ‘patients’ appreciate the basic supplies they don’t always have with them. Band aids, Tylenol, etc. There is so much more to a band aid than just a small wound cover. While you clean that tiny scratch, you have the opportunity to hear about how their day went. You become the family that that worker is not going home to and is missing. When it’s 100 degrees and the humidity is of the south Florida type, and a young guy from Wisconsin is telling you about how bad his feet are itching, besides the medical first aid, don’t forget to mention he should always change into dry socks once or twice daily. Your ‘patients’ have come from all sorts of places that are a long way from where they are now. I know they have ‘hot’ in Wisconsin, but it’s not the same as a good south Florida late summer ‘hot.’ Those poor Florida workers in a nor’easter without the proper head gear made an impression on the Storm Services nurses from New York working after Hurricane Sandy. Their first aid site included proper warm head and neck gear. That’s a first aid site at Storm Services.
Working at a Storm Services Medical site is many things. I especially enjoy the freedom to give basic nursing care in often challenging circumstances to people who appreciate any act of kindness. It’s really good work if you can get it.
If you are looking to take a contract with Storm Services, there is currently an opening for 2 positions in Puerto Rico. Click here to view jobs.
About Thea H. Burke, RN, BSN:
Thea Burke lives in a small, rural town in Southwest Georgia, in an area affectionately referred to as ‘below the gnat line.’ She has been a nurse for many years and has enjoyed working in a variety of specialty areas from emergency departments to hospice to public health. Prior to graduation from the Medical College of Georgia, she worked as a bank clerk and a truck driver in the Georgia National Guard. In her current role in Public Health, she works in medical emergency preparedness and assists with her regions’ preparation and response to disasters.
She and her husband are also part of the Medical Team for Storm Services, LLC. After a regional disaster, this company offers provisional support such as housing, food, water, sanitary facilities, and first aid for the large numbers of workers temporarily relocated to restore services interrupted or destroyed by the disaster. In her contract role with Storm Services, she has assisted in the medical response to multiple storms, including Hurricane Sandy and most, recently Hurricane Irma.