In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma St. John Rescue, Inc. has been overwhelmed with everyone’s support and generosity. We apologize it has taken us this long to reach out but saving lives is always our number one priority.

St. John Rescue is an all volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization incorporated in 1996. Our active members live and work on St. John and are integral parts of the community. Though every member was personally affected by the storm, it has not stopped the true spirit of St. John from shining through. We are all coming together to help our neighbors.

St. John Rescue was the first group to mobilize while the storm was still raging and have been active responders from the onset. Immediately following Hurricane Irma, we utilized trauma kits to help those in need, and provided emergency rescue to St. John residents. This was paramount to saving lives, and the beginning of our large-scale recovery efforts with government agencies and organizations.

St. John Rescue’s first step in aiding the island was to engage and deploy the Global Disaster Immediate Response Team (DIRT) which operates as part Help.NGO. They are an elite team of disaster relief experts with specialties in search and rescue, communications and disaster relief operations. They have been working tirelessly alongside St. John Rescue members to identify and execute the changing needs of the island during recovery. Global DIRT was on the ground in St. John immediately following the hurricane and began work right away.

Establishing a line of communication to resources off island was vital for continued recovery. St. John Rescue with DIRT brought the first non-private satellite phones to St. John. This allowed teams off island to process and send information about missing persons, coordinate supply chains and efficiently manage resources.

The search and rescue efforts of St. John Rescue with Global DIRT have helped hundreds of people on St. John. We have conducted door to door checks while prioritizing vulnerable patients, medical necessities, elderly and children. We followed leads from calls, texts and emails off island, as well as in person leads from fellow island residents. We liaised with FEMA’s Urban Search and Rescue Team which increased the speed and efficiency of search and rescue efforts. St. John Rescue with Global DIRT has also been clearing brush and debris as needed to allow access to remote residences.

St. John can be challenging to navigate under normal conditions, due to its island terrain, and hard to reach areas. Because of our local knowledge and Global DIRT’s experience in disaster management, we are able to help government agencies navigate the unique terrain and layout of the island and to assist in damage assessment. This helped us best convey the needs of the island to the government agencies.

St. John Rescue and Global DIRT, with support from GATR and Cisco, worked together to provide WiFi. Cisco and GATR provides portable hotspots and VSAT Communications (high speed WiFi via satellite). The first GATR was deployed at the Myrah Keating Clinic. Shortly after, St. John Rescue and Global DIRT were able to acquire two more VSAT GATRs for additional wifi hotspots. Our goal following Maria is to bring high speed wireless to Coral Bay and the Pharmacy on St. John. This will allow the pharmacy to link with their parent pharmacy on St. Thomas. Until this occurs there is no way to access prescriptions or insurance information. Residents currently have to pay full price in cash for their life sustaining prescriptions. When this is in place it will drastically reduce the out of pocket cost.

During relief efforts St. John Rescue has continued our focus on health and wellness. We have been helping transport patients to and from the clinic. We have acted as patient advocates by helping to get medications and much needed supplies to the island. We have been assisting with medical evacuations. We have also been delivering food and water to those with limited mobility. One of our members is a retired police officer and has filled in as security at the Myrah Keating Clinic. St. John rescue has four vehicles, all of which made it through the storm mostly undamaged. Our ambulance is being used by the Coral Bay firehouse as a stationary clinic for Coral Bay’s firefighters, paramedics and Rescue members.

Most government agencies have left the island for safer shelters ahead of Hurricane Maria, but our members and the members of Global DIRT remain on island as essential personnel in the face of the next storm. The government agencies will be back and we will be here to meet them.

St. John Rescue – On call for life.