Tim Zagorski, a campus security officer for Las Cruces Public Schools, was deployed twice during the 2018 hurricane season. Zagorski provided disaster aid and relief to those who were affected by the storms in his role as a telecommunication/logistics specialist with the Disaster Medical Assistance Team, as part of the National Disaster Medical System which operates under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
On the morning of Oct. 8, the Disaster Medical Assistance Team leader for New Mexico requested assistance in helping DMATs for Midwest-1 and Delta-1 teams. By 1:00 p.m., Zagorski was activated to be deployed to help those living near Florida. On Oct. 9, Zagorski and his team of 35 were sent off to a staging location in Mobile, Alabama, to immediately respond once Hurricane Michael hit. This was Zagorski’s third deployment since joining NM1-DMAT in 2008.
Disaster Medical Assistance Teams are a coordinated effort between the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the National Disaster Medical System and other DMAT teams nationwide. DMAT teams are usually made up of an array of people who have experience working in hospitals, including doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and EMTs. DMAT teams not only augment care provided at hospitals, but also routinely go out into the community to provide care at clinics, in community shelters, and even go door-to-door to check on at-risk populations in really hard hit communities
After a briefing on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 10, DMAT teams were sent off to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to pick up emergency supplies for their mission. The large group was divided into four teams of seven. The medical task force teams were deployed to Mexico Beach, Florida, and Panama City Beach, Florida, where the eye of the hurricane had hit.
Zagorski’s team was notified they would be going to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, to set up at the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, which, at the time, was the only functioning hospital within 100 miles. Hospitals in Panama City Beach and Mexico Beach had to be evacuated before Hurricane Michael made landfall. Most patients were transferred to the Fort Walton Medical Center, where Zagorski and his team worked for the next eight days providing relief to medical staff by taking in the less-acute patients and rendering aid in tents.
“You know, you feel the devastation, you feel the sorrow for the folks who have lost things,” Zagorski said. “But the exhilaration and the pride you feel for the job you’re doing in helping these folks out is worth it. As much as I enjoy being deployed and being able to go and help folks, each deployment means that there are people who are going through a really difficult time. But, at the end of the day, I really enjoy what I do and the opportunity to make a difference.”
Shortly after returning from the Hurricane Michael response, Zagorski was activated once again for a six-day deployment to assist in the response to Super Typhoon Yutu, which was expected to hit the U.S. territory of Guam. Zagorski and his team were staged in Honolulu, Hawaii. The storm, however, missed Guam and instead hit the islands of Saipan and Tinian. While the damage was extensive, the hospitals on both islands remained operational.
Since the typhoon made landfall, NDMS personnel treated more than 4,765 patients primarily for clean-up related injuries, such as lacerations and puncture wounds.
NDMS comprises approximately 5,000 physicians, nurses, veterinary staff, paramedics, fatality management professionals, and experienced command and control staff, organized into more than 70 response teams. When an emergency overwhelms local and state resources, ASPR looks to the expertise within NDMS from across the country to assist in the response. Although they hail from communities nationwide, when deployed they are federal government employees working as part of a coordinated federal response.
Zagorski spent a total of 13 days on his first deployment and six days on his second mission before returning home.
“We are very proud of Mr. Zagorski, who, on such short notice, is always willing to help those in need,” said Las Cruces Public Schools Superintendent Greg Ewing. “Tim is a valued employee, and we are always pleased to allow him the time to volunteer his skills to these critical disaster-response efforts.”
Zagorski retired as a sergeant with the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office in 2003. He has been involved in emergency services since he was 14 years old and was a charter member of the very first ambulance service in Sierra County, New Mexico in 1974, as part of the Sierra County Rescue Squad. He has worked for Las Cruces Public Schools since 2012.
— Samantha Lewis, LCPS Public Relations Coordinator, 575-527-5946, firstname.lastname@example.org