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Minnesotans answer Boston's call for help

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS
  • Star Tribune
  • October 28, 2012 - 8:16 PM

Excelsior Fire Chief Scott Gerber was in his element Sunday -- the world of emergency response -- although he was well below the elements as he helped direct police, medical and other emergency workers from an underground command post near Boston.

Gerber is part of a five-member team from the Twin Cities that volunteered to help with the emergency response to the monster hurricane, Sandy, expected to wallop the northeast coast Monday.

The work is not new to Gerber, who also volunteered in August 2011 to work in the same emergency operations center, helping Massachusetts respond and clean up when Hurricane Irene hit its Atlantic coast.

This year, state officials invited him back as they prepared for Sandy, which is working its way up the East Coast from North Carolina to Connecticut.

"I did similar work" last year, Gerber said by phone Sunday afternoon from the underground center in Framingham, Mass. "We coordinated chain saw crews, sandbaggers, pumps, generators, road closures, working with power companies to locate and fix electrical outages. Sometimes it was gopher work -- just emptying the garbage."

The team was requested through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual aid agreement between states, under which equipment, people and know-how are shared at major disaster locations.

Minnesota's team includes Gerber, Hennepin County Medical Center paramedic manager Chris Kummer, Hennepin County Emergency Management Director Eric Wagge, Allina Health communications technology specialist Chris Breitbach and senior planner Chad Ostlund of the state's Homeland Security and Emergency Management division.

Wagge and Kummer were reached by phone Sunday afternoon and said working on such disasters is much better than training drills at building and maintaining emergency response skills.

Wagge said he previously volunteered to help Alabama officials when tornadoes cut a deadly swath through that state in April 2011.

"The philosophy is that nobody has enough of anything, so we all share," Wagge said. He noted that Minnesota received emergency help from other states during widespread flooding along the Red River in 1997.

"Deployments like this create lifelong relationships," Gerber said. "A big part is helping people in other places, because someday that could happen in our community and we know that other people would help us as well."

Jim Adams • 952-746-3283

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