Community Life Support (CLS), Clarks Summit, provides professional patient care and ambulance transportation services to Lackawanna County, Wyoming County, and the surrounding areas. But in the wake of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, members of CLS are also prepared to deploy to wherever they are needed as part of the Pennsylvania EMS Strike Team, organized in response to a federal mandate after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Carmen Passaniti, CLS operations manager, said, Fortunately, since that time, we have had no terrorist activity that required a Strike Team deployment.
Passaniti and Eugene Lesneski organized a recent strike team of local volunteers from CLS that deployed to storm ravaged New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy.
Nathan Truitt, CLS paramedic supervisor, served as team leader in New Jersey. . He left NEPA Oct. 30 and returned Nov. 5. He and his crew were based in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. and mostly operated in the greater Atlantic City area.
According to Truitt, the strike teams are designed for preparation for the disaster and to operate in its aftermath..
He noted each EMS region has the opportunity to form strike teams that will deploy when Pa. deploys, and all of the regions work together bringing different resources into the mix for the Pa strike team. The Northeast is Region 5 and includes Bradford, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Lackawanna, and Luzerne counties. The PA Dept. of Health organizes the team and decides when it deploys and the Northeast EMS region organizes the local teams.
I'm not sure that every state is as well organized as Pennsylvania… Truitt said. We are organized and jumped right on it and got our act together early.
Initially, Pennsylvania's strike team consisted of 35 ambulances, and they asked for a second wave of another 35..., said Truitt, who was there with the first 35 for seven days. In the second 35 we had another crew that Community Life Support sent, three days behind my deployment. They were there for a week, and now they've asked for a third wave. I don't think we're going to be involved in that one.
Kyle Durko, Carbondale, and Brian Gogas, Justus, were part of the crew. In the initial deployment, Truitt and Chris Woolfolk, Hanover Township, were each in charge of a crew. Kevin Howard, Factoryville, third team leader, functioned as a liaison between the crews and the command. Their standard shift was 12 hours; not counting the travel time to their assignment, which could be up to one and a half hours away, with the crews expected to be on location at 6 a.m. Following his return from New Jersey, Truitt said this of the teams, I worked with a great group of people who really made me proud. At times we were working in Ocean County and for one deployment, one of the guys from NJ said, ‘Any job I get to hand out, I know I can give it to you because the Pennsylvania guys are getting it done.' That makes me feel good.