SunStar EMS hurricane deployment units prepare and debrief
during the Republican National Convention at Tropicana Field
as they mobilize for Hurricane Isaac response.
them after every storm since then.
SunStar’s current plan includes a mandatory callback for all employees, and
it also includes provisions to make sure
employees’ family concerns are taken into
consideration. For instance, six responders
and an ambulance are placed in 20 hotels
throughout SunStar’s response area—and
geographically near the responders’ homes
to assist families if needed.
a WoRd of encouRagement
Editor’s note: Jullette M. Saussy, MD, served
with NOEMS during hurricanes Katrina and
Gustav. She provided this message to EMS
crews responding to Hurricane Issac.
It’s incredibly difficult to be so far away and yet
to still feel the deep longing to be right beside
each of you as this hurricane approaches. Katrina
in 2005, Gustav in 2008, and now Isaac in 2012—all
on or about the same day seems more than just
For those of you who have been through this
drill, I know it brings up all kinds of emotions. It
has for me, and I’m not even there. For the newest members of the team, take a few lessons
from the seasoned men and women of New
Orleans EMS (NOEMS.) If they seem on edge, it’s
for a reason. Be patient. If they seem emotional,
it’s for a reason. Be patient. If they tell you to do
something, it’s for a reason. Do it.
You have capable leaders, and they need the
team to pull together and perform at their highest capacity. We have one mission and that is to
stay safe and to keep our citizens and visitors
safe. Stay focused on that, and you will succeed.
Thank you for the work you do each day.
—Jullette M. Saussy, MD
Two must be on duty at all
times, which gives the other providers a chance to check on their
families. Another 250 go to the
Bringing everyone in inevitably involves logistical challenges
for managers, such as the feeding
and housing of staff. And once
a storm begins, there will ultimately come a point where the
crews can’t go out.
“We’ve kind of learned from
other hurricanes that have hap-
pened,” says SunStar Vice Pres-
ident Mark Postma. “We’ve tried to be as
flexible as we can.”
Early on, it appeared the region covered
by SunStar might get hit by Hurricane Isaac.
However, the storm track went further west.
The plan has been tested several times, though
it’s been activated only once since its imple-
mentation, Postma says.
SunStar was prepared, however, says
Richard Schomp, director of operations.
The company had already activated special
EMS coverage for an event staged for the
Republican National Convention on the Sunday before the storm. That coverage, says
Schomp, included 14 additional ambulances,
extra management and a mass casualty supply vehicle.
“I’d already staffed up the system to handle
an extreme amount of volume,” Schomp says.
“With the storm coming, we maintained that
high amount. It had very little impact, but we
Typically, EMS operations experience a
large influx of 9-1-1 calls after a storm when
residents have no power. Romero says there’s
often a jump in heat-related calls, chainsaw
cuts and falls from roofs as homeowners
work to rebuild.
Getting crews time to rest, especially when
they’re stationed over a wide geographical
location, is one of the largest challenges,
Romero says. However, each storm, Romero
says, helps the company prepare for the next
one. Hurricane Isaac was no different.
“Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike taught us a
lot,” says Romero. “We’ve gotten better every
time. We can always improve and will continue to improve after this one.”
—Richard Huff, EMT-P
Robert Forbuss was an
EMS advocate, speaker,
author, leader and pioneer known for promoting EMS, EMS careers
and high-quality private
and public ambulance services. He died in
August after a long battle with amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou
Gehrig’s disease. He was 64.
Janet Smith, a former Mercy Ambulance
employee and colleague of Forbuss’ says,
“The Bob Forbuss story is about how a man
in an emerging new healthcare service in
the 1970s, leveraged his company’s posi-
tion in a growing Nevada metropolis to
open political and strategic access to the
power structure of the city and county his
Co-founder and subsequent president
of the American Ambulance Association
(AAA), Forbuss presided over the National
Showcase for EMS in Washington, D.C. He
served on the AAA committee to institute
the process for ambulance accreditation
from which the Commission on Accredita-
tion of Ambulance Services (CAAS) was
Jay Fitch, PhD, founding partner of Fitch
and Associates, LLC, reflects, “He was my
second private client, the best thing that
could happen to a young consultant. Ener-
getic and passionate, I came to admire his
Forbuss served as the industry’s spokes-
person during the national Ford ambulance
crisis and was named EMS administrator
of the year at the EMS Today Conference &
Exposition in 1988 for his work during that
crisis. Forbuss coordinated the ambulance
and walking wounded components at the
1980 MGM Grand and 1981 Hilton high-rise
hotel fires, an effort JEMS founder James O.
Page described as a “command performance.”
Smith reflects, “Who knows how many
have lived to see another birthday, a gradu-
ation or a grandchild’s first steps because
of him, his influence, his care in count-
less cities and towns throughout America
and especially in those communities where
CAAS Accreditation is the benchmark. He
will be missed.” —Mike Ward, EM T-P
Halloween safety tips: www.jems.com/article/don-t-get-spooked