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Sep 7, 2011 11:18 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Volunteers Commended For Hurricane Emergency Preparedness Efforts

Sep 7, 2011 1:04 PM

Preparing for the worst can sometimes bring out the best in the residents of a small town.

As Hurricane Irene cut a deadly path northward recently, across the East End volunteer firefighters and ambulance personnel galvanized in a mighty effort to prepare for the potential consequences of the massive storm and to evacuate those in low-lying areas.

And after all was said and done—with no serious injuries and minimal damage reported—Westhampton Beach Fire Department Chief Al Tudisco said he wants to recognize and thank the scores of volunteers who left their families and risked injury to ensure the safety of the village’s residents.

According to Chief Tudisco, volunteer firefighters spent the week prior to Hurricane Irene’s arrival preparing for the storm, namely by securing equipment and making sure that sufficient supplies were available to handle potential emergencies.

“Fire department members should be commended on the work they did,” he said. “They really impressed me. As a chief, I couldn’t have been more proud. It was amazing. They toughed it out and they did a great job.”

Rita Wyatt, the chief of the Westhampton War Memorial Ambulance, also gave props this week to her volunteers, noting that 20 members of her company stood at the ready, alongside firefighters, for the duration of the storm at her group’s headquarters on Hazelwood Avenue, at the Westhampton Beach Fire Department annex building on Seabreeze Avenue and at the Quogue Firehouse on Jessup Avenue.

Chief Tudisco said 38 of his firefighters were on standby around the clock, until approximately 6 p.m. on Sunday, August 28, when the hurricane was on its way to New England. The local ambulance and fire department coordinated their efforts with both Southampton Town and Suffolk County’s emergency management offices.

“They were fantastic,” Ms. Wyatt said of her crews, noting that they contributed 325 hours to ensure the safety of the public. “They left their families and came down here and slept on the floor,” she said. “And that isn’t even counting the hurricane preparedness meetings, the people who shopped and cooked for the volunteers.”

One local resident, Ms. Wyatt said, took in the families of firefighters so volunteers could be on standby at the firehouse. “It was really wonderful,” she said. “Our volunteers put in a lot of time for the community.”

Early in the morning on August 27, less than 24 hours before the storm was expected to slam into the East End, Chief Tudisco said 45 firefighters, plus four volunteers from Ronkonkoma and two from Manorville, helped evacuate the residents on Dune Road, between the Quogue and West Hampton Dunes village borders, and those on the mainland in flood-prone areas.

During the storm itself, volunteers responded to 23 calls related to automatic alarms and several pole and tree fires. While one call originally came in as a house fire on Dune Road, it turned out that the alarm was triggered by flooding. No structure fires were reported in the village.

Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller recently sent out a letter to all village employees and volunteers, thanking them for their service prior, during and after the storm. “They performed admirably,” he said.

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