O.C. crews ready for Gustav relief

ORANGE, Calif. Southern Californians are responding to a call to help from the Gulf Coast Region. Disaster teams are getting ready to lend a hand if they are needed.

Three years ago today, a Category 5 hurricane smashed into New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina left the Gulf Coast devastated. It was days before emergency response could mobilize.

Organizations like Noah's Wish provide emergency shelter for animals during disasters.

The group experience in the Gulf after Hurricane Katrina has them prepared for what could be another deployment.

"We'll have the resources available to us to house as many animals that come our way," said Thea Martin, Noah's Wish.

In the city of Commerce, volunteers with World Vision of Southern California have prepared 26 pallets of disaster supplies in anticipation of Gustav.

Teams from Orange County are also being dispatched.

Allen Hayden works for Care Ambulance Service. He and 10 others from the city of Orange are ready to leave after getting the call on Friday.

"Getting ready to go down to hurricanes if they do hit, and if there's a disaster," said Hayden.

"We've been asked by FEMA, under contract with the federal government, to deploy ambulances into the Gulf Coast affected region," said Care Director of Operations Bill Weston.

Among the 300 ambulances deployed across the United States, five will come from Orange County. This is all in an effort to help in advance of Gustav after it gained hurricane strength.

Authorities estimate Gustav could hit anywhere from Texas to Florida. New Orleans is in the middle of the projected path.

The ambulances will travel for about 27 hours to cover at least 2,000 miles. In other words, they'll move as fast as they can to get to the Gulf Coast as soon as possible.

The ambulances will be sent to one of the potentially hard-hit areas. Texas, Alabama, Louisana and Mississippi are all possibilities.

"Our task will be, originally, in front of hurricane to assist in the evacuation of hospitals and convalescent homes that are in the path of the hurricane. And then repatriate those patients when the danger is over," said Bob Barry, Care Ambulance.

The agency also helped during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"Each time we respond out there, we don't know what we're going to. But, we know the area now," said Care Division Manager Lyle Hanson.

Officials say they have learned their lesson after Katrina. They are already having response moving smoothly with better communication and coordination.

"They're calling this one out pretty far. Landfall is not due till some time late Monday or early Tuesday. So they're pre-positioning all the resources that are going to be necessary for a worst-case scenario," said Barry.

The ambulance crews know they could be gone at least a week; however, they are prepared to stay longer. After all, their mission could turn into disaster relief.

Eyewitness News Reporter Robert Holguin contributed to this report.


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