CCR – Bangor Daily News | More Mainers to the rescue — members of Orrington church to join utility crews, tree workers, police, rangers in Sandy relief effort

By Dawn Gagnon, Bangor Daily News Staff, November 5, 2012

ORRINGTON, Maine — Calvary Chapel member Ralph Robertson — also known as Mr. Fixit — spent much of Monday afternoon making sure that the five vehicles heading to superstorm Sandy-ravaged New Jersey were up to the 500-mile drive they will be making Tuesday as part of a wave of Mainers who have joined the nation’s latest disaster relief effort.

Meanwhile, Pastor Ken Graves and church members PK Kurth and John Fleming set to work gathering shovels, buckets, crowbars, brooms, gloves, a generator, chain saws, first aid kits, safety gear — equipment they will use over the next week as they help clear limbs downed by the storm and remove soggy carpeting, sheetrock, flooring, furniture and appliances from flooded houses before mold has a chance to set in.

The men worked together like a well-oiled machine — largely because their church has been doing so since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Graves said during a pretrip packing party at the church late Monday afternoon and early evening.

About 25 members of the Orrington-based church — six of them students involved in the Calvary Chapel Christian School’s leadership academy — are on their way to Old Bridge, N.J., to help members of a congregation there that is part of their church network.

That group will spend a week there and then will be replaced with another one, Graves said.

“There’ll be people shuttling back and forth, I would imagine, over the next month,” he said.

Graves said Monday that the church began making plans to deploy volunteers to the New Jersey-New York area the day after the superstorm struck the East Coast.

“Our primary focus is we’re going to go into Old Bridge and then Ocean Beach,” Graves said.

“We have a network of churches, so when a region around the country is affected, we make connections with them and they told me the need was great,” Graves said. “The next question was about the logistics — is there housing available so we can put a base camp together quickly?

“Plus we developed some habits and practices as a result of disasters that we’ve all pooled our resources on in recent years,” Graves said. “And another thing is a lot of us are chain saw guys, so when the need is to cut trees, we’re there.

“A lot of what we’ll have these guys doing is just so very manual,” the pastor said. “It’s just, use your hands and your back, pick this stuff up and walk it to the curb.”

Also assisting with the relief effort are repair crews from Bangor Hydro Electric Co., Maine Public Service Co. and Central Maine Power, as well as a group of Maine State Police troopers and county sheriff’s deputies who are assisting police in New Jersey with their patrols.

The Maine Forest Ranger Incident Management Team, which was mobilized to New York City on Oct. 31, has been working in a coastal area of the borough of Queens that was devastated by the storm surge and is still without power.

Emergency responders from around the state have joined the effort, as have teams of volunteer emergency operations specialists made of up personnel from the Maine Air and Army National Guard, the Maine Department of Public Safety and Transportation, and the Maine Emergency Management Agency, as well as a local fire chief and private sector energy expert. Team members specialize in several different emergency support functions.

Maine companies also are doing their part — including Hydro-Photon Inc. in Blue Hill, which sent a load of its SteriPEN handheld water purification tools to storm-ravaged parts of New Jersey and New York. The gadget uses ultraviolet light to kill waterborne microbes, bacteria and viruses, killing 99.9 percent of such organisms, according to the company.

In addition, Maine-based Lucas Tree Experts is launching more than 450 tree workers to storm-struck states who will be working in states as far away as South Carolina to help 10 utility companies restore power.

Aaron Salvato