At the Dunk: Here’s how FEMA stepped up in RI, ready to give 3,000 COVID vaccines a day

At the Dunk: Here’s how FEMA stepped up in RI, ready to give 3,000 COVID vaccines a day

Mark Reynolds, The Providence Journal

Richard Scott was in Georgia. Other emergency workers like him were scattered across the United States.

But they were just a phone call away in late February as Rhode Island officials analyzed their options for ramping up vaccinations and saving lives one year into the pandemic.

On March 1, they asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deploy a team that would reinforce the legions of local vaccinators who were already on the job.

That’s how Scott, a 73-year-old police instructor from Brunswick, Georgia, ended up on the floor of The Dunk, playing for a team that, as of Tuesday morning, was capable of vaccinating 3,000 people per day.

Scott was among 135 emergency workers deployed to the downtown venue, which more typically hosts rowdier crowds late March as NCAA hockey and basketball teams pursue national championships. Another group, also coordinated by FEMA, staffs a vaccination center in Middletown.

FEMA’s largest-ever disaster relief effort in RI

Overall, FEMA has brought in a force of 201 workers to support Rhode Island’s vaccination effort this month, drafting personnel from more than 20 different federal agencies.

They are in Rhode Island for 45 days, putting a face on FEMA’s largest-ever disaster relief effort in Rhode Island.

“Everyone here that I’m working with is looking to make a difference,” Scott said. “A positive difference. On our end a positive difference is to get as many people through here safely vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can to make the country that much better.

Rhode Island was the first New England state to ask for federal help with the job of vaccinating its population, says Emily Martuscello, a FEMA manager from New Hampshire who has coordinated staffing at both vaccination sites.

“It’s the biggest emergency everyone’s ever been a part of,” she said. “It’s ginormous.”

Scott’s background is in law enforcement. He’s an instructor with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers.

The Surge Capacity Force

His 48 years in police work encompass stints at the New York Police Department serving with the training branch of the FBI.

He is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Surge Capacity Force.

If an emergency exceeds the capacity of FEMA’s disaster workforce, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security activates the surge force to help.

“We have members of the Surge Capacity Force deployed all over this country right now,” says Martuscello “It’s the biggest deployment I think we’ve ever had.”

Scott’s emergency work has taken him to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria.

Now in Rhode Island for his first time, his job is greeting patients as they arrive on the floor of The Dunk and head toward registration.

“As the people come down and once they hit this floor, we try to move them through the process in a timely but safe manner.”

Biolab technicians from the U.S. Department of Agriculture handle vaccine supply.

Two commissioned officers from the U.S. Public Health Service, both of them in combat-style blue fatigues, are on the scene, too.

“We have very rigorous quality control in place to make sure the right person gets the right vaccine at the right time,” says Martuscello.

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics from the U.S. Forestry Service are among the vaccinators.

All of them are licensed and received training from both the National Guard and the Rhode Island Department of Health, says Martuscello. The preparation, she says, included competency tests.

Tom Trask, 32, a U.S. Forest Service Ranger, is wearing his forest ranger uniform under a vest that says vaccinator on the back.

Typically, Trask, of Conway, N.H., inspects timber operations and manages wildland fires.

As an EMT, he has experience with certain types of injections, such as epinephrine for allergic reactions, but this is his first time administering vaccines, he says.

“We’re pretty much an all-hazard resource,” Trask says. “We do anything and everything we can to help people.”

A husband-wife team of U.S. Forest Service workers, Robert and Judy Beanblossum of Pisgah Forest, North Carolina, are among staff who watch over people just after they receive the vaccine. They are versed on different signs of allergic reaction to look out for.

In 45 days, the Rhode Island tour of the Beanblossums and others on the team is expected to end, says Martuscello. At that point, an ongoing hiring effort should be ready to fill those jobs with locals.

Joseph Wendelken, spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Health, says the state had requested “human resources” from FEMA so it would be prepared to administer increased volumes of vaccine.

‘Federally supported, state managed and locally executed’

The state also requested the help “to meet the new federal and state accelerated vaccination timelines” and its request was “encouraged” by FEMA officials, Wendelken said in a statement.

“COVID-19 vaccination saves lives,” he said.

While FEMA has staffed the two sites, the agency does not manage them, which lines up with a comment made by Martuscello: “We have a mantra here at FEMA that things are federally supported, state managed and locally executed.”

The support from FEMA is among “critical pieces” that have made it possible for the state to put resources into tasks such as vaccine outreach, providing geographically dispersed vaccination sites and vaccinating some of the hardest-hit communities. That includes communities of color and people who are homebound, he says.

Tuesday marked a full year since then-President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus to be a disaster in Rhode Island.

As of March 24, FEMA had committed $456 million in disaster-relief aid, according to a FEMA spokesman, Kevin Sur.

That aid works through a reimbursement process.

By last Thursday, FEMA had supplied: 3,710,926 gloves, 586,847 face shields, 220,407 surgical gowns, 586,303 surgical masks, 1,152,600 N95 respirators and 100 ventilators.

Those flows of aid represent another level of support beyond the extra staffing for the vaccination clinics this spring, says Armand Randolph, who heads up the recovery branch of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency.

Randolph was struck by the meals that FEMA has provided  — more than 505,000 box meals. Randolph says those meals went to residents, including people who could not leave their homes for medical reasons.

Randolph says that assistance isn’t as valuable as the diverse emergency workers who came to southern New England this month, “willing to deploy from their loved ones to come here and assist with saving the lives of Rhode Islanders.”

By the numbers

Cases in R.I.: 136,765 (346 reported Tuesday)

Negative tests in R.I.: 3,333,621 (12,963 reported Tuesday, 2.7% positive rate)

R.I. COVID-related deaths: 2,618 (5 reported Tuesday)

Rhode Islanders hospitalized with COVID: 123 (15 in intensive care)

Fully vaccinated in R.I.: 214,764 (334,878 at least partially vaccinated)

Cases in Mass.: 631,031

Mass. COVID-related deaths: 17,130

Cases in U.S.: 30,378,955

U.S. COVID-related deaths: 550,727

Detailed warning information on upcoming weather threats and other hazards

Welcome to the third week of 2020 National Preparedness Month! This week, we will be addressing how to prepare for specific disasters.

Compared to other weeks where we talk about general topics, plans, and maybe some things in your kit, we will be talking about how you can get stuff ready for each type of emergency or disaster.

So to start out, let’s talk about information about upcoming disasters.

A solid tool that is almost indispensable is…..your cell phone!

That’s right, that little computer/smart phone in your pocket is a GREAT way that you can discern information and better respond to the emergency.

One easy way is to download the FEMA app.

See the source image

The FEMA app has a ton of features that could be beneficial to your specific area. Specifically in the notification for five of your identified cities/county.

This feature provides the ability to see what’s going on in a certain area of the country. And since I travel, I always have the first slot in my list for home. This allows me to get any notification on stuff that could be happening at home.

The second, third, and fourth slot are for my family in Los Angles, Honolulu, and San Francisco. Gotta keep an eye on the family no matter where they are. Plus an extra set of eyes from another part of the country is beneficial esp if they are sleeping at 0300 and it’s 0800 here.

Since I travel a fair amount, I usually reserve slot #5 (the last slot) for my work travel. Even though I may not be from Central City, I will always know the latest in dangers in my travel city.

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From critical tornado warnings or immediate evacuation tsunami warnings – I know I’ll be prepared for my location(s) specific disaster or emergency.

All of the information provided to you….FREE. That’s right-all the details are available to you for free. App is free. No charge from FEMA to download the app. No monthly fee. No recurring administrative charges.

See the source image

Ahhhh, safety for free.

I got your back.

More free tips tomorrow addressing specific hazards.

Reporting live from the third week!


My well labeled mugs for coffee and hydration

Last and final day of 2020 National Preparedness Month. All the best time to talk about your kits and stuff you gotta have in case of an emergency/disaster.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I am a staunch supporter of good travel mugs. My oldest mug is a Nissan Stainless mug from Japan that is about 25 years old and yes, it still keeps the coffee hot. However, I needed something that is spill proof as I usually keep things in my bellows pockets.

And the last thing I needed was to spill coffee in/on my pants.

See the source image


Stanley mugs that have been traveling and deploying out with me for the past 5 years. I usually carry two – one for my black coffee and the other for my water (also backup for coffee).

Best part? They have a lifetime warranty. LIFETIME BABY!  I can attest that if something breaks, Stanley has committed to replacing things for free. I’ve had several tops of the travel mugs mechanically fail from normal use. Stanley has replaced each of them immediately and for free. No question from me that they definitely stand behind their product.

It is worth noting that you should consider labeling all of your stuff. ALL of your stuff. Something that is easy to spot in a large area and unique.

Stuff gets lost or acquired or stolen….so make sure your stuff is labeled and easily identified.

I can spot my things from across a large room…even in the dark.

Hope this week’s tips helped you plan out a better kit and equipment.

Reporting live with my favorite preparedness kit…


Enhance your kit with these individually wrapped things

Almost done with the 2nd week of 2020 National Preparedness week – so let’s enhance your preparedness kit a little more.

As you know, this week has been dedicated to your prep kits and diving into several avenues of that works and of course ways you can enhance your kit to make you more agile/nimble…give you a better chance.

Want an easy one for today?


In this day of trying to find better ways to be a bit more clean (thanks COVID), we need to be more aware of our hands and the things we touch. Therefore we should act like an advanced society and really use our utensils to max capacity.

Why You Should Let Your Baby Get Messy While Eating

Since all of us are doing our part and eating out a bit more (hopefully more local), take a moment and utilize those plastic utensil sets for your kits. Don’t decline or throw them away, USE THEM!

Most of them come individually wrapped and often are filled with a knife, fork, spoon, napkin, salt, and pepper. In fact, the fancier ones come with a wet-nap of some sort to help clean you up a bit.

(hint wing joints usually send their to-go orders with wet naps.

Now, let’s step up to the big leagues. Check this out from my friends at Mount Prospect Emergency Management (Illinois).

Handy dandy AND reusable. Legit sturdy utensil set that all packs up nicely in a ready to go pouch.

Look closely, you can see Mount Prospect EM subscribes to the Built a Kit – Make a Plan mantra.

Look, however you want to do it, having an extra set(s) of utensils could be a lifesaver for your preparedness kit. (FYI-the Mount Prospect EM utensil set legit lives in my preparedness kit)

Heck, if you use chopsticks, that’s totes fine with me too.

IntereSTING...: Goodbye, Mr. Miyagi

So get those extra utensils in play and enhance your kit!

Reporting live from the Village of Spork…HA!


What does HumpDay have to do with your kit?

As we are in the middle of the second week of 2020 National Preparedness month, we should continue to talk about your preparedness kits. While yesterday’s kit was part of my deployment loadout, there are similarities between personal preparedness kit and professional deployment kits.

How timely of a topic since today is HUMP DAY!

One such item that is replicated in all of my kits is cash.

That’s right, dolla holla yo!

And quite literally, it’s specifically dollar bills y’all. All dollar bills! Look, before you start asking about the singles that are ready to mingle, think about it like this:

During the first outsets of a disaster where infrastructure is non-existent, power is not working, and cell service is out…all your precious credit cards, debit cards, and touchless pay methods will not work. Period.

So tried and true, cash talks. I deploy out with at least $200 in cash to supplement our operations.

Additionally, businesses may not have the capability to provide change so dollar bills will allow you to provide close monetary values for most products.

My esteemed colleague MaryJo Flynn is right, $2 bills would be good because it reduces your weight by 50%…aka 6 ounces. But regardless (or irregardless-eek), small bills/denominations are critical when prepping your kit.

Most definitely, don’t carry two $100 bill and expect change.

Some parts of the country still prefer cash so take that into consideration as you plan on the safety of your family and being able to provide for them during the first 72 hours of a disaster.

Now would be an excellent time to go to the bank and get your singles.

More easy tips tomorrow on your prep kit.

Reporting live and making it rain…..


Without a doubt, you want to add this to your prep kit

Don’t bother looking, it’s still 2020 National Preparedness Month. As we start this work week, I realize many of you already have kits ready to go that include food for at least 72 hours.

GREAT!!!!! So proud of you.

Previous years, we’ve stressed the importance of having shelf-stable food per person for at least 3-days. And these MREs or Meals-Ready-To-Eat is a great example.

However, let’s be honest, MREs are NOT that delicious.

Well, maybe this one might be my new favorite.

(Special shout out to my Brothers from FEMA USAR Ohio Task Force-1 (OH-TF-1) on my new first out MRE)

But we also need to think about how you are going to augment that. An easy way to help support the lackluster food options in any disaster? Hot sauce.

And only one hot sauce supports weird 24-hour dietary needs with questionable shelf-stable requirements…Sriracha!

Sriracha has been supporting the palate needs of collegiate students for decades.

Here’s a quick video history on the Sriracha brand.

So this stuff is kinda magic on disasters and deployments. Basically anytime/anywhere.

How do I do it? If I am off to a stable deployment with more structure, I just take a simple bottle and throw it in my large duffel bag. Off we go!

However, if we are going into a contentious location where things may not be…the best, I will likely pack these guys.

Awwww yeah – single serving packets that help any meal anytime of the day. They can be carried on my person and discretely added to any meal. Additionally, the single serving can be helpful since carrying an entire bottle around might not be so….cool.

I see srircha as a necessity with the same importance of a can opener.

During our 2005 deployment to Hurricane Katrina/Rita, I remember food being quite terrible as our Task Force worked Louisiana’s Lower 9th Ward – St. Bernard Parish. Food was quite terrible and good hot sauce to mask bad tasting food was hard to find esp since everything was demolished there.

So get your self some hot sauce to augment your preparedness kits with your 3-days worth of shelf stable foods.

Keep it spicy folks!

Reporting live with my bag of deployment Srircha


My big deployment duffel? Sure thing! #NatlPrep #kit

During this second week of 2020 National Preparedness month, we’re going to talk about kits.

Get Ready To Live Out Your 'Knight Rider' Fantasies With This KITT Car  Rental

Not that one, your PREPAREDNESS KIT!

For those that wanted to know on deployments, we are required to have “stuff” – lotsa stuff. But being light and lean is also required as we are tip of the spear personnel in the disaster operations directorate.

Deployment out timeframe? Hours. Not like deploy out in a few weeks, like hours as in “get to the airport now” hours.

Specs on the types of bags can be found here. But the contents are more important right?

I’ve talked about my backpack before, but I wanted to talk about my large duffel bag. My rugged Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30 has been great for these 10 reasons

There is a whole built-in separate pouch for my boots! Yep, there is a separate pouch that is waterproof that keeps my grimey boots separate from my other gear. At the start of the incident, it’s kinda chaos and often, we find debris and sharp objects as we roll into a disaster location. I have said repeatedly time and time and time again, get yourself some good boots to wear. Pros always have good boots. Period.

The bag holds a myriad of power support like in the top outside pocket with my PowerSquid. It has 5 different plugs, all separate to allow for all sorts of plugs/adapters to fit. Each one is independently able to align toward a different device and help reduce strain on the wire attachments. The actual length is helpful as I can’t deal with a measly one-foot extension from the wall. A generous 10 feet is much appreciated so I am not tied to any wall.

The main compartment is protected by waterproofing zippers with a cavernous main compartment. It has mesh side pockets which is great because typically everything gets wet. We are often deployed out to adverse conditions and are frequently drenched. These mesh pockets help air out my stuff in the bag. To help aid in the smell, I do keep a bar of Irish spring soap in a box in one of the compartments. The luck of the Irish right?

Irish Spring Bar Soap

Additionally in the side compartments, I keep my ancillary cables there in heavy duty ziplock bags.

  • iPhone lightning cable with plug
  • HDMI cable
  • MiniUSB cable with plug
  • Reflective vest
  • Baby wipes
  • Q-tips
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Gloves
  • Small first-aid kit
  • General aviation helicopter adapter to 3.5mm plug (for flight comm)

And if you were going to ask, no, my flight helmet doesn’t fit into the bag.

At the heavier bottom of the bag, I carry my secondary coffee cup/water bottle. This supplements my primary water bottle and acts as my backup coffee traveler. I am totally invested in Stanley products as they have been a staple in my numerous deployments over the years. Each Stanley product has a lifetime warranty and wholeheartedly honor that. guarantee. It is worth noting that all my stuff is label and marked with easily  identifyable reflective tape. This way, my stuff is never lost, misplaced, or stolen.

At the top of the bag, I hold my rolled up LL Bean sleeping bag. Yep, that’s right, I deploy with a sleeping bag. Often times, the disasters do not have locations for us to sleep/bed down so we have to make do. This same sleeping bag I’ve had since I worked at the fire station. Flannel interior, it’s been great. Easily washable and completely zips open, this sleeping bag is cozy, lightweight, and comfy.

I carry an extra set of notepads, note cards, and an old pencil case with pens, markers, highlighters, and pencils. This way, in case I get separated from my primary pack, I have a backup set ready to go.

Gifts for Kids at Paperchase - Unique, Fun & Just For Them | Paperchase

And finally, my secondary tripod resides inside or strapped to the outside molle. This is a backup to my primary monopod/tripod that lies on the outside of my pack, but I can use it to support those live shots back to the studio.

Additionally, if I do have to carry my flight helmet or my USAR helmet, the outside of this bag has a built in helmet retainer that can hold my flight helmet or my USAR helmet.

The bag itself rolls easily with it’s heavy duty wheels and with lots of grab handles on all sides helping me move it from place to place.

That about gives you the basics for my large duffel bag.

Hope this inside look at one of my deployment bags helps you assess your bag(s) and gets you better prepared for any emergency/disaster.

Reporting live with all my preparedness kits…


Rethink your preparedness plans. Thanks #COVID

What can you do to improve your plans in 2020 National Preparedness Month?!?

With this COVID thing going on, we must be cognizant of new things in our preparedness plans. New challenges, esp in planning, make us rethink our orig plans.

But this is a good thing. A fresh set of eyes and new parameters that could help us enhance our preexisting plans!

I would say that we all need to add a few masks to our plan. Yep, add a few masks in your car, your work bag, etc….

Coronavirus Spurs Demand For Face Masks — But They're Surprisingly Hard To make : Goats and Soda : NPR

If you happen to work in close proximity to or a high contact environment, consider wearing a surgical mask over an N95 mask.

Rising Coronavirus Cases Put Fresh Strain on Mask Supplies - WSJ

Simple things like this could help enhance the protection and extend the life of your equipment. Not all places will be as prepared as you so I would take the time now to plan accordingly.

Aside from masks, I have changed my plans to have hand sanitizer in various locations. Not only car, but bags, pouches, belt loops, etc…

Funny Fruit Food Silicone Mini Hand Sanitizer Holder Travel Portable Safe Gel Holder Hangable Liquid Soap Dispenser Containers|Refillable Bottles| - AliExpress

(Disclaimer-I don’t own jeans)

This kind of proactive behavior allows me and those around me to be less at-risk of contracting COVID.

I can’t trust the places I go to have a fully-stocked hand sanitizer dispenser right?

Creative Nose Funny Practical Hand Sanitizer Bottle Nose Gel Dispenser – Pink-Always

I know you may be prepared, but the company you keep may not be as prepared as you.

So consider augmenting your plan for double masks, more hand sanitizer, extra set of gloves, etc….

nitrile gloves | Tumblr

Be even more prepared for stuff to happen!

Reporting live from 2020 National Preparedness Month!


Zilcho on the toilet paper acquisition this morning

This week has been so busy. After a busy morning of emailing reporter after reporter after reporter….

So I gotta make a quick morning run to the store for some toilet paper for the family.

Son of a……

Zero, zilch, nada, the big bagel…nothing left in the paper towel isle!

Me: “I wonder why people are hoarding carts of toilet paper and paper towels.”

That also brings up a good point because I am now really wondering how much toilet paper people use on the norm or are there rumors abound that talk about a sign/symptom of the Coronavirus is diarrhea?

Cough? Yes.

Fever? Yes.

Shortness of breath? Yes.

But the runs? At this time, I am unaware of any sign/symptoms of diarrhea w/ the Coronavirus diagnosis.

Here’s a link to the CDC’s page on the official Coronavirus issue.

C’mon people, we are only a few weeks into this thing…let’s rethink our community’s TP strategy. Please.

Reporting live from an empty isle in Target…


EAS for closing Chicago lakefront, all parks and beaches, the 606 and the RiverWalk

Got a few more EAS notifications today…this one from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Targeting the lakefront, parks/beaches, the 606 trail and Chicago RiverWalk, are now closed. Dang it.

Hoping these preventive measures help reduce the spread of Coronavirus.

Sigh, it’s going to be a long spring huh?