Sunday, May 21, 2017

AeroBridge: Lake City Municipal Airport (51J) is new emergency relief landing site

LAKE CITY, S.C. — The Lake City Municipal Airport is now a landing site for emergency relief planes and housing location for nonperishable supplies to be used during extreme weather events.

AeroBridge, a first-response emergency management nonprofit organization, will house supplies at the airport in Lake City to be used for disaster relief in several coastal cities in South Carolina and North Carolina.

AeroBridge is activated by FEMA, according to Lake City Administrator Shawn Bell. The nonprofit organization helps to get emergency supplies to hard-hit areas during extreme weather events in a timely manner.

“Aero Bridge has access to all of these private small airplanes and pilots,” Bell said. “They can be in a lot of these areas in a couple hours.”

Experienced pilots work with Aero Bridge and can land planes in small spaces such as golf cart paths and grass runways.

“When communities need water, food anything like that, they (Aero Bridge) can be activated, dispatched and go out to these communities that are hit by hurricanes, earthquakes, whatever, and start immediately sending out aid,” Bell said.

One reason the Lake City Municipal Airport was selected as a landing site is its location. Bell said Lake City is on the coast, but inland enough that if a hurricane comes, the city won’t be completely devastated.

“But we’re also strategically located. We’re about halfway between Hilton Head and a lot of the Carolina communities up in North Carolina as well, the Carolina beaches,” Bell said. “So this is a really good kind of logistics point for them.”

Dennis Bassin, Aero Bridge field director of emergency services for South Carolina, said he is responsible for any coastal location from Hilton Head to Elizabeth City, N.C.

“We’re a branch of the national organization, and we’re Aero Bridge for the two Carolinas,” Bassin said. “We also have a logistics base out in Bamberg County.”

The Bamberg and Lake City sites are the only two in the Carolinas. Aero Bridge of the Carolinas is activated when needed by FEMA. Most recently, Aero Bridge assisted with relief efforts during the 2015 flood.

“Like the flood that hit Clarendon, Williamsburg and Georgetown counties, our first planes were dispatched to those areas two hours after the call,” Bassin said. “So that may seem like a long time, too, but you have to make sure the weather is right and pilots check their planes carefully and load them very carefully.”

With the 2017 hurricane season beginning June 1, Aero Bridge is already gearing up. A simulated supply load-up was scheduled at the Lake City Municipal Airport on Saturday morning, but had to be postponed because of weather conditions.

Pilot Wouter Sijtsma is one of the participating Aero Bridge pilots. Sijtsma has participated with the organization for two years and helped with flood relief in Georgetown.

“You do a lot of flying, and you might as well do something useful with it, and you might as well help some people because after those rains, all those people didn’t have food, water, etcetera, so why not help out and still get your proficiency in,” Sijtsma said.

To be able to participate in emergency relief efforts is impressive, he said. Pilots get to see the weather circumstances and devastation from a different viewpoint.

“You land in and you know you’re doing something right,” Sijtsma said. “It does feel great.”

Original article can be found here:

LAKE CITY, SC (WPDE) —  Lake City municipal airport will potentially play a helpful role in future disaster relief efforts.

The airport will house emergency non-perishables, water and other supplies for AeroBridge.

AeroBridge is a non profit organization that responds to disaster areas with aid as soon as the storm passes and it's safe.

The non profit has access to small private planes and volunteer pilots which make it easy for them to fill up with supplies at small airports and take off to where help is needed within 30 minutes.

During an emergency, about 30 planes will land and fill up in Lake City to help towns from Hilton Head to Elizabeth City, NC.

Lake City is in the middle of those cities which makes it a prime location.

Dennis Bassin with AeroBridge says because the planes are small they can respond faster than some disaster response entities.

"Our commitment is to have the first plane in the air full of emergency supplies two hours after we get the call from FEMA and then our longer-range commitment is for the first three or four days after things become safe," Bassin said.

AeroBridge responded with supplies in Georgetown after the 2015 flood and brought in supplies for weeks after.

They say they will be recruiting ground volunteers in Lake City.

Original article can be found here:

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