Upper West Side CERT

Our Man in Haiti – Part 1

Upper West Side CERT’s own George Contreras is in Haiti alongside the 82nd Airborne, providing emergency medical care to survivors of the 7.0 earthquake that devastated the island on January 12.

George Contreras

George Contreras

A New York City paramedic and emergency and disaster management expert with twenty years experience, Contreras is the Upper West Side CERT’s chair of Education and Training.

Contreras deployed with New York City Medics. He is leading an eleven-person team that includes physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and paramedics. “We are finding people that have not received any medical care. It is quite devastating. There is much death and suffering. Food and water access is now becoming a problem,” he reports.

An initial contingent of 100 82nd Airborne troops arrived in Haiti on January 14, two days after the quake, and another 800 landed the following day. The division’s entire 2nd Brigade Combat Team — on tap as the U.S. global response force — is on call and ready to deploy as needed.

New York’s emergency preparedness experts have played a significant role in the Haiti search and relief effort. Also on January 14, New York Task Force One, New York City’s Federal Emergency Management Agency-sponsored (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue Team, made up of specially-trained personnel from the New York City Police and Fire Departments, was activated to assist with relief efforts. In a special City Hall gathering on January 26, Mayor Michael Bloomberg awarded each member with a certificate of recognition to thank them for their service.

Reuters reports that the U.S. military halted medical evacuations to the United States for medical treatment this past Wednesday, following concerns by some state governments about who will pay for the treatments. Since all future medical care will need to be provided in Haiti, teams like Contreras’s will be increasingly important to the relief effort.

According to IRIN, health organizations registered with the United Nations say that while there is now a decline in physical trauma cases, mental health problems are on the rise. Haiti’s Ministry of Health is developing a mental health strategy and International Medical Corps is coordinating psychological care with national organizations.

The loss of life caused by the earthquake has been estimated by the European Union citing Haiti authorities at 200,000. More than 100,000 bodies have been discovered, with more being pulled from the rubble every day.

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If you are Haitian in New York City or know someone who is, this Informational Seminar on Fraud Prevention and Temporary Protected Status for Haitian Nationals, scheduled for February 6, 2010, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, may be of assistance. 

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