A handful of East Valley volunteers left last week to aid Florida residents pounded by hurricanes.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA, called upon registered disaster-preparedness groups nationwide to direct hurricane victims toward relief programs.
Paul Sullivan of the Chandler Fire Department immediately signed on after receiving word over the Labor Day weekend.
Sullivan heads Chandler’s Citizen Corps Council as well as its Community Emergency Response Team program, which trains participants in safety and rescue techniques to better prepare them for emergencies.
Sullivan rounded up fellow response team graduates Walt Schuknecht of Scottsdale, James Spindler and Richard Langevin of Tempe and Jamie Beauvais and Jeff Burton of Chandler. More wanted to come, but making arrangements proved difficult on such short notice, he said.
"Not all of them were able to get two weeks off work and away from life," he said.
FEMA trained the volunteers in Atlanta before deploying them south.
"We feel bad for the people that are affected, but it’s a great opportunity to do something and get involved," Sullivan said Thursday from Atlanta as he prepared to board an airplane bound for Jacksonville, Fla. "People are really suffering down there."
For two weeks, the men will work for FEMA as community relations field officers. Their group of about 100 total volunteers will canvass the Jacksonville area, speaking with as many residents as possible.
"Our job is primarily to assist the victims of the hurricanes and steer them in the right direction to getting help through programs that FEMA set up," Sullivan said.
Schuknecht, who first got involved with Chandler emergency response because of his skills as an amateur radio operator, volunteered as a way of giving back to society.
"This is what we trained for," he said. "We can bring this education and knowledge back to the Phoenix area."