WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Call Stuart Hirsch Waterbury’s “Hurricane Man” — the guy with the big heart. When he saw Hurricane Harvey put parts of Texas underwater and Hurricane Irma pound Florida, he dropped everything to head to both areas to help the people in harm’s way.
Why did he do it? it’s in his DNA.
“We have to respond,” Stuart said. “It’s imperative that we respond.”
Stuart is the Director of Emergency Operations at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury. He’s also the founder of a group called Operation Endeavor. It’s made up of people from medicine, the military and law enforcement. They excel in search and rescue — and they helped search and rescue crews in Texas, giving them some much-needed breaks.
“We embedded our team in with Fire Rescue Station One in Friendswood, Texas and our paramedic team helped them do EMS calls,” Stuart said.
When Hurricane Irma developed and started to target Florida — the Operation Endeavor team drove to Tampa just as Irma made landfall. They immediately encountered a driver who got into an accident and was stuck in rising floodwaters.
“EMS wasn’t coming for the victim so we had to transport the person (to the hospital) who was in the accident,” Stuart said.
But, that’s not all they did in Florida. They also helped emergency coordinators by being the first ones to go searching for hard hit areas in Tampa and The Keys and relaying what they saw so the coordinators could determine where to send their crews and how many should be dispatched.
“The Keys were in the dark,” he said. “There was no cell signal or internet coming out of The Keys because they had been wiped out….And so people were hearing rumors that The Keys had been demolished but they weren’t sure where…..And in all actuality, we were able to get on the ground and assess visually what areas were impacted the most — thereby relay that information by satellite — since we had transmitters and receivers — to the teams that were waiting to come in.”
Stuart felt going to Florida and Texas was “the right thing to do,” he said. Any doubts were erased when grateful Texans and Floridians showed their appreciation.
“Some people were just crying that people were coming from so far away to help out,” Stuart said. “The amount of gratitude from the people who were there — it humbled us tremendously.”