Superstorm Sandy had swept through Hazlet Township in Monmouth County, N.J., five days earlier, and it was still a disaster zone when the Riddle Hospital EMS squad—chief Keith Laws, EMT Scott Jones, and paramedics Mark Giangiulio and Lee Mensack—was deployed to assist the National Guard and local responders as part of the Delaware County Strike Team. “We were told we’d be needed for three days, and we’d be in a hotel near the Meadowlands,” says Laws.
The devastation was so great, however, that the men stayed eight days, bunking in a school, then camping in a parking lot. They showered when they could and ate MREs, Pop-Tarts and food donated by those who had it. They answered 911 calls, depending on GPS signals and local volunteers for directions. “There were 500 people packed into a school built for 200,” Laws recalls.
“They were there for days with no medications—elderly, kids, people with chronic diseases. It was like a hospital with no supplies.” Giangiulio credits colleagues back home, as well. “The EMS staff was working extra hours every day to cover our shifts,” he says.
“It’s not just the work, though,” adds Mensack, who also volunteered for relief work after Hurricanes Katrina, Irene and Ike. “It’s showing people in a place like Hazlet that they are not alone. People care about them and will come to help.”