Union College’s Disaster Response Team heads to Florida

Hurricane Ian continues its devastating path up the east coast. Students from Union College are looking for what they can do to help.
Published: Oct. 1, 2022 at 7:20 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 3, 2022 at 9:36 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -As Hurricane Ian continues its devastating path up the east coast, it’s left dozens dead and more than a million without power. Students from Union College are looking for what they can do to help. A group of international rescue and relief majors at Union College are heading down to Fort Myers this week. The call went out at dinner time on Thursday.

Union’s Disaster Response Team needed to be ready for a trip to Florida by Sunday.

“With disasters, you don’t get much warning. and then you spin up, and you have to get out as soon as possible,” said Andrew Saunders, Program Director for IRR Program. “It’s been pretty chaotic. All day, we’ve been working on logistics, trying to make contact with people down there who don’t have great communication right now.”

They loaded up two trailers full of supplies and will put tarps on roofs, clean damaged homes and remove downed trees.

Some of the 30 students and alumni going had to cancel trip and concert plans. A few of the students have already traveled with the team offering relief in the wake of Hurricane Ida.

“I can watch the news and not even be affected by it,” said Adam Anderson, International Rescue and Relief Senior. “Like okay, that’s just another disaster. Until I actually saw it first hand and saw the destruction. Like, met people who had their lives ruined and saw their attitude about things and how they viewed it. It was amazing.”

Many said they’re looking forward to being out in the field.

“It’s just really cool to be able to work with communities that are so resilient and so adaptable,” said Lauren Richert, International Rescue and Relief Senior. “And just really strong people who care deeply about the places they live.”

The Union’s IRR Program offers academic and technical education to students. Most become certified EMTs during their first year, but going to a disaster area is always different than the textbooks.

“This isn’t a training scenario,” Anderson said. “This is real life. I was confident in my skills, but I just never used it in real life. So that’s when I had to step up and really be a leader on my team.”

The 30-member team held a briefing on Friday. The plan in Florida isn’t set in stone yet, but the team plans to stay in Florida for six days.