HELPING VICTIMS IN HAITI AND AT HOME

The deadly earthquake in Haiti left horrible scars on the face of that impoverished nation and its impact has been felt around the world, nowhere more than here in South Florida. Within our Broward Sheriff’s Office family we immediately found 137 employees of Haitian descent, many with friends and relatives who are missing, injured or killed. A total of 112 BSO people speak both English and Creole, Haiti’s native tongue. Like caring people everywhere, the men and women of BSO all wanted to do something to help relieve the suffering. I am proud to say that we responded in several ways.

To immediately help our affected BSO members, The Sheriff’s Foundation of Broward County set up a fund to benefit those families directly, assisting them as they begin to heal and rebuild. Anyone interested in making a donation to that fund can visit our website www.sheriff.org/haiti.

Two days after the January 12th disaster, BSO joined forces with Food for the Poor (FFTP). We identified Haiti’s most immediate survival needs and we set up collection points at all BSO district offices and Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue stations, as well as our detention facilities. The people of Broward County showed their generosity and brought their donations to fill up our bins. To date, we have delivered loads of needed goods to FFTP. Headquartered in Coconut Creek, Food For the Poor has an established base of distribution in Haiti and other points in the Caribbean, so we know the donations are reaching their destination to be distributed to the hardest hit.

Beyond contributing basic sustenance for quake victims, BSO members got involved, hands-on, here and in Haiti, helping to treat critically injured victims - men, women and children – and providing emergency transport to our hospitals.

Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue units medically assessed hundreds of earthquake casualties, many of them critically injured infants and children, at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The injuries have run the gamut, from crushing trauma to severe burns, and we have transported the victims to hospitals all over South Florida. The incidents involved managing up to 50 patients at a time and the standard of care our firefighter/paramedics delivered demonstrates their dedication and our excellence as an emergency medical services leader.

Two of our Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue members were deployed to Haiti with the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Florida Task Force 2 Team, spending nearly two weeks in the devastated area. They rescued many victims, including a woman from Pembroke Pines who was trapped in the rubble of what was once a grocery store. The team’s heroic efforts were showcased on local and national news reports. When our people, Capt. Kevin Bartlett and Driver/Engineer Allison Dunne, returned via Miami International Airport they were greeted by family, friends and fire rescue command staff. They were glad to be home but said they would return to help Haiti in a heartbeat.

This tragic event will profoundly affect South Florida for years to come, testing our resources, resilience and compassion. I will always recall with pride how this agency reacted for the benefit of people who were truly in their darkest hour. There is no challenge too great for the Broward Sheriff’s Office as we stand together, ready to respond.

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