When you are involved in maritime search and rescue you are used to facing the elements head on but what happens when your station itself is affected by inclement weather. Here Julie Schneider of VISAR explains how they were affected by Hurricane Irma and how they are rebuilding their service.
Virgin Islands Search and Rescue has been serving the community for the past 30 years but on September 6, 2017, our lives in the British Virgin Islands changed forever when the eye of Hurricane Irma passed over us.
With sustained winds clocking over 185 mph and a rumored 16 tornadoes, the damage from the storm was described by many as “looking like a set of a post-apocalyptic movie”. Cars overturned, 20 Ton yachts picked up and flipped over, roofs were blown off, power lines dangling and not a leaf or flower to be seen. It’s an image that will stay with us forever.
It’s now four months since the storm and many of us are still without power but there is hope in sight. It no longer takes four hours to get fuel, the police aren’t stationed at the grocery store, more and more restaurants are open and thankfully tourists are starting to come back to sail, play and enjoy.
With tourism, comes the need for our rescue vessels to continue our mission of “Saving Lives at Sea”. Thankfully we are 100% operational but supplies are low; we are working our way through our back up inventory of medical supplies and our crew have to piece together what’s left of their gear.
A good portion of medical supplies that did make it through the storm had to be thrown away due to mold and water damage; this includes our cardiopulmonary resuscitation rescue training manikins.
Due to the high wind speed, one heavy metal rolling door and two other doors at our base blew away leaving our crews gear, including waterproof suits and jackets and Gecko Helmets, at the mercy of loose building insulation, rain, storm debris and mold. The gear that was useable was put to the test as our dedicated crew spent endless hours on the water post Irma, helping the Marines and Non-Governmental agencies shuttle personnel, bringing medical supplies, food and water to our sister islands and transporting those in need of medical assistance.
We’ve been actively fundraising through our social media platforms for the community, raising over $28,000 that has been donated directly to charities and organizations focused on the children of the BVI’s well-being as well as purchasing school supplies and rebuilding their kitchens. With the needs of the greater community far greater than our own we haven’t been fundraising for ourselves, however now that we are getting “back to business” we are acutely aware that we need to restock our medical supplies and purchase new gear for our crew.
We have set a short-term goal of raising $10,000 to replace a minimum of 10 sets of gear, 2 rescue training manikins and various medical supplies with a long-term goal of replacing all 50 sets of crew gear and 10 sets of training gear.
If you’re able to help support us, please visit www.visar.org to donate. Every donation helps. You can also follow our rebuild progress on our website and social media sites on Facebook (VISAR) and Instagram (767visar). #BVISTRONG