Hoosiers head to east coast to help ahead of Hurricane Florence

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.-  As Hurricane Florence gets closer and closer to the east coast, Hoosiers are heading in to help.

“From our standpoint locally, we’re going to do what we can to help people on the national level,” said Jayme Washel, Deputy Chief with the Bloomington Fire Department.

Indiana Task Force One is already on the ground. One of those members is a captain with the Bloomington Fire Department. The team took a new tool called Spider-Link with them on their deployment.

“Now it’s time to see if it works in the field,” said Matt Link with Indiana University.

Matt Link works in the university’s Research Technology department. Link built the self-contained storage device, after first responders told him that they were running into problems sharing damage reports with federal agencies.

Most of the time there’s no service after a disaster, so emailing and thumb drives aren’t dependable.

“We think it’s going to be very helpful,” said Link.

The Spider-Link allows eight laptops to connect to it, so all eight devices can share files between them. Link is a retired volunteer firefighter and admits it only took him ten minutes to create it.

“(It’s a) simple device, makes it easier and reduces their time to really get to that next step which is critically important,” said Link.

More than one million people are under mandatory evacuations, being ordered to get out. Since Monday morning, a central Indiana company, Heartland Ambulance Service, has been in the Carolinas helping hundreds of patients at hospitals and nursing homes.

“We are here for them and we’re going to get them somewhere safe,” said Kenneth Jackson, President of Heartland Ambulance Service.

Crews have been loading patients and re-locating them up to 200 miles away in Jacksonville and Atlanta.

“It’s overwhelming to see the response. They’re so gracious to have the help. They’re scared, and they want to get out. They can’t care for themselves. It’s very rewarding to be part of that,” said Jackson.

Workers with Heartlands Ambulance Service are prepared to help until the conditions are just too dangerous, forcing them to hunker down.