Ever since the Israel Rescue Coalition (IRC) and United Hatzalah (UH) emergency aid team departed for Florida it has been one rescue related stop after another. First, their flight was diverted to Atlanta, as all airports in Florida were closed. Then the team stopped to assist some 1,500 Iram evacuees who had taken shelter at the Toco Hills synagogue and in the surrounding community. The team then departed, following a delay due to severe tornado warnings in Atlanta, for Savannah Georgia, where they assisted in caring for some 90 senior citizens who had taken shelter in a Care Facility that had lost power. The medical staff of the facility was unable to arrive due to flooding of the area, but the  Israeli team was undeterred.

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IRC and UH team welcomed to Florida by U.S. first responders

Team members cared for the residents and guests, provided medical care and assessments for those who needed it, as well as psychological first aid, which was performed by members of the team Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit.

Finally, on Monday evening, the team made it to Miami, Florida.The seasoned Israeli response team is comprised of members of Israel’s Search and Rescue Units, United Hatzalah EMS volunteers, as well as members of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, tasked with providing psychological and emotional stabilization to people who have suffered or are currently suffering a traumatic incident. They wasted no time set up an operational command center in Miami Beach where the IRC will be overseeing operations for the team members as they will now split up into two forces.

The 9 Israelis were joined by 2 U.S. based team members on Monday but have more recently been joined by their fellow Hatzolah volunteers from the chapters of Miami-Dade and Hatzalah of New York as well as other volunteer EMS responders from other parts of the U.S.

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Miami IRC and UH Team Control and Operations Center during a quiet moment

“We have been coordinating together with local authorities, including the U.S. National Guard, the Coast Guard, local law enforcement agencies and local EMS services,” said team leader Shlomi Anavi. “Our team currently consists of approximately 50 people and we are heading to the hardest hit and hardest to reach locations currently in Florida, which are the Florida Keys and the city of Naples,” Anavi added. Anavi himself has served as part of multiple search and rescue mission throughout Israel and around the globe and is also a certified EMT and ambucycle driver with United Hatzalah.

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IRC and UH team driving through Florida

“We are going to get to everyone who we can reach and give them whatever help we can offer, whether it is supplies, rescue efforts, EMS care, or psychological care and help. We came here with a goal and with a purpose and we will fulfill that goal,” he added.

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IRC and UH team members prepare supplies and equipment before heading out to the Florida Keys and Naples

Members from each segment of the team, (search and rescue, EMS, psychotrauma) will be dispatched to both locations in order to provide the necessary aid to residents of both locations. “We are going where we are needed most, that is what we came for, and that is what we will do. As the saying goes, ‘come hell or high water.’”