As the Northeast Florida community continues to recover from the significant impacts of Hurricane Irma on the region, there is one group of people who is being widely praised for its response to the crisis: the first responders.
In Neptune Beach on Sept. 15, Parsons Seafood Restaurant invited residents to gather there with first responders for a “Post Hurricane Irma Party” to show support for those who were affected by the storm, as well as those who aided them in their time of need.
“The first responders – from the firemen, to policemen, even the linemen – those guys, they’re working 10 to 12 hours a day and it’s not an easy job, so I just wanted to say, ‘Thank you,’” said Chuck McCue, who helped to organize the event.
Others at the event shared McCue’s gratitude, including Candy Breidert, president of the Beaches chapter of the Society of St. Vincent dePaul, who was there collecting donations for hurricane relief efforts.
“Personally, I think the first responders did a great job—all the people restoring the electricity and everything, it was just amazing,” Breidert said. “They spent a lot of time out there in the dangerous weather, and we were all just hiding in our rooms while they were out there driving around, so they did a wonderful job.”
In any emergency, the first responders are the men and women in uniform who rush toward the danger, often putting their own lives at risk to keep others safe. Long before it was known which path Hurricane Irma would take, local first responders began taking actions to prepare for any outcome.
“By the time the storm actually got here, we had three to four full days of operational planning in place so that we could manage the impacts of the event,” noted Captain Jeremy Robshaw, public information officer for St. Johns County Fire Rescue.
When the storm eventually did arrive in Northeast Florida and many residents found themselves trapped by rising floodwaters, Robshaw’s team – along with other state and local emergency personnel – were ready and waiting to answer their calls for help.
“Our Urban Search and Rescue teams – which are our immediate post-impact teams – went out as the storm was still happening, surveying structures, ensuring that we didn’t have people trapped in structures and getting to areas that we know are very flood prone,” Robshaw said. “We utilized high-water vehicles to go through and check on those homes to make sure people were okay, and in some cases, evacuate them if they had no other way to get out of the residence.”
In addition to Parsons, other Jacksonville-area businesses and organizations have joined in the efforts to support and give back to local men and women in uniform, including Jimmy John’s, which in partnership with the Blake Bortles Foundation, held a special promotion this past weekend inviting first responders to eat there for free. The Jacksonville Jaguars also donated 5,000 tickets to Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans to first responders, volunteers involved in the recovery efforts and residents who were affected by the storm—a decision which was praised by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.
Curry also took a moment to praise first responders, and in so doing, seemed to sum up the sentiments of many among the First Coast community, stating, “These men and women have worked around the clock before, during and after the storm, to save lives in our city. Jacksonville is a resilient city full of resilient people. I am incredibly proud of us all.”