Kenneth E. Berkenbush, Chief
17 School Street
Amesbury, MA 01913
For Immediate Release
Monday, Oct. 2, 2017
Contact: John Guilfoil
Amesbury Assistant Fire Chief Returns from Rescue Mission in Florida and St. Croix
AMESBURY — Fire Chief Kenneth E. Berkenbush wishes to acknowledge the hard work and sacrifice of Amesbury Assistant Fire Chief David Mather, who recently returned from rescue missions in Florida and St. Croix, as part of the Massachusetts-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT).
It should be known that Assistant Chief Mather and his fellow DMAT members took part in the following actions:
Assistant Chief Mather was activated and departed Boston on Tuesday, Sept. 5 as part of a 36-person team. He arrived and staged in Atlanta before leaving for Orlando, where his team had to seek shelter when Hurricane Irma arrived there on Sunday, Sept. 10. The next day, his team was assigned to a convoy that traveled from Orlando to Miami/Dade County to establish a casualty collection point for sick and injured evacuees fleeing the Florida Keys.
On Tuesday, Sept. 12, the team was reassigned to the City of Marathon, Florida, where they established a field base to assist in recovery efforts. Upon arrival, the team discovered that the local hospital, Fishermen’s Community Hospital, was damaged and unusable, and the nearest working hospitals were 40-50 miles away.
The team arrived at 6 p.m. and set up a field hospital. The hospital was up and running by midnight, six hours later.
From the start of operations at midnight on Wednesday, Sept, 13, until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 26, the team saw 711 patients, including young children, adults and seniors until the arrival of a mobile hospital at the site on the 26th.
With inclement weather continuing and requests for help coming from many directions, on Sept. 24, Assistant Chief Mather left Marathon with a six-person Health and Medical Task Force (HMTF) of MA-1 personnel and flew from Miami to Saint Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist the U.S. Air Force (USAF) with medical evacuations. (A different crew departed Florida for Puerto Rico on Sept. 30, and several members are expected to remain there until at least Oct. 15.)
At St. Croix, Assistant Chief Mather and his team assisted, stabilized, and ultimately flew out of the Virgin Islands with 43 patients aboard a C-17 military transport, working alongside a USAF Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT).
“Assistant Chief Mather and his team saved numerous lives while in Florida and St. Croix, and they helped ensure that proper, professional medical care was never far away, even in the face of a damaged hospital and a seemingly unending string of terrible weather,” Chief Berkenbush said.
Teams like MA-1 deploy when aid is requested by a state, tribal, or territorial government, and they remain on site until their help is no longer needed. The work is coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The team members have regular jobs related to their roles on the team, and are federal employees when deployed to a disaster, event, or official training activity. Disaster Medical Assistance Teams are rapid-response units comprised of physicians, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, mental health clinicians and support personnel.
“It is an honor to travel with my fellow team members to parts of the United States that have suffered through this horrific hurricane season. For us, this work is just part of our jobs. It is something we hope we never have to do, but if a disaster struck New England we know that our brothers and sisters from all across the nation would come here to help us,” Assistant Chief Mather said. “While in Florida and St. Croix, I was truly blown away by the resiliency and dedication of the first responders already on site. It was a true team effort.”
Assistant Chief Mather has been with the Amesbury Fire Rescue Department since 2000 and has been with the DMAT since 2007. He has been a national registry paramedic since 1992. He oversees emergency medical services and training for the Amesbury Fire Rescue Department.