IEM and FEMA: Working Together to Save Lives in the Caribbean

At IEM, saving lives is the most important thing we help our customers do. Over the past several weeks, IEM Air™ (IEM’s air division) has been on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Reliable air operations are a vital part of any major disaster response operation. When disaster strikes, governments and survivors must be able to rely on the availability of air bridges to ensure that at-risk residents can be evacuated to safety, and vital supplies and commodities can be brought in to sustain survivors. Air operations like these are particularly important throughout the Caribbean, where disparate islands surrounded by vast bodies of ocean create many miles of distance between major supply hubs and people who may need help.

Throughout this historic and devastating hurricane season, IEM been there to make sure FEMA is meeting its mission to support survivors. As Hurricane Maria was approaching Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm, Governor Ricardo Rossello ordered a last minute mandatory evacuation of certain coastal areas of the island, which had already been impacted by Hurricane Irma a week earlier. The order required vulnerable medical evacuees that had already been transported from St. Thomas and St. Croix out of Puerto Rico as well. To bring those patients to safety, IEM Air personnel were called upon to quickly transport them to safety in Miami. Shortly thereafter, the successful evacuation of more than 100 at-risk patients and medical staff was completed.

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As the federal and territorial response to these storms transitions from response to recovery, IEM staff continue their work for FEMA, despite austere and difficult conditions on the ground. Today, to help local officials speed the pace of recovery, IEM is coordinating with FEMA to transport vital recovery personnel to these islands, track aircraft supporting the response, conduct assessment of damaged airfields, and do everything possible to make sure air operations can get back to normal. Doing so will help ensure federal and territorial officials can meet their mission. The people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands deserve no less.

Being able to competently and reliably manage the complexity of an air operation in the midst of disaster can literally mean the difference between life and death. We recognize we are only one part of the emergency management team responding to these catastrophic storms.  But at IEM, we are proud of our work – informed by over 30 years of experience and innovation – to help governments protect lives by providing air support to first responders.  Given the historic scale of these disasters we know a full recovery from these storms is likely years away.  But IEM will be there every step of the way.

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