Since the devastation of areas of New York and New Jersey caused by Hurricane Sandy, rescue teams from all over the country have been deployed to help. Ricky Kue, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and emergency medicine physician at Boston Medical Center (BMC) is one of those volunteers. As Medical Team Manager of Massachusetts Task Force 1 (MA-TF 1), a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urban search and rescue team, Kue and 80 team members were mobilized for a week to assist with search and rescue operations in Queens and Staten Island.
Kue’s main responsibility was to tend to the healthcare needs of police, fire, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and civilian volunteers. Kue and other medical personnel engaged in search operations, monitored team members for illness and injury and provided medical screening on a daily basis to help support the rescue missions.
“Our goal was for our team to be self-sufficient and not use local resources who were already dealing with disaster relief on a massive scale. Because of the risks associated with the rescues, we served as physicians and paramedics,” said Kue.
Upon arrival, the team searched collapsed buildings, trenches and aided people stranded in their homes due to the high water levels. Providing an extra hand, they ensured that residents who weren’t evacuated received the medical attention they needed.
In one particular situation Kue was stationed at his basecamp along the beach in Midland, an area in Staten Island that was hit the hardest. Medical assistance was needed for a woman with heart attack symptoms and EMS was not immediately available. Kue and another physician grabbed their medical equipment and ran to the woman’s home.
“I assessed her and fortunately she was not having a heart attack, but you could see that she was struggling. Despite the adversity this woman and the people of this community were faced with, the appreciation they showed was my most memorable experience during the mission,” said Kue.
Being deployed to this area hit home for Kue, who grew up in Queens, where his parents still live. Kue called his parents to see if they were okay as his convoy drove past their neighborhood. “I lived in NYC for 18 years and I’ve seen hurricanes growing up, but I never thought I’d see such devastation to my own borough. This was New York City’s Hurricane Katrina,” said Kue. Luckily, his family and childhood home were unharmed thanks to some emergency preparedness tips Kue has been offering his family for years.
Kue is also a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve and can be called for duty overseas at any time. “I couldn’t do this without support from my emergency medicine team at BMC and BUSM. They help cover my clinical duties so I can go out the door and deploy whenever necessary,” said Kue.
Massachusetts Task Force 1 (MA-TF 1) Urban Search and Rescue Team (US&R) is located in Beverly, Mass. Urban Search and Rescue teams are comprised of Police, Fire, EMS and Civilians and respond to major disasters under a contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Currently there are 150 people on the MA-TF 1 team.