WARRENSBURG — Troy Armstrong, Johnson County Emergency Management Agency director, is traveling to the Bahamas to help provide emergency relief to the country as it recovers from the effects Hurricane Dorian caused when it made landfall on Sept. 1.
As of Monday, Sept. 30, International Medical Corps reports almost 600 people are still missing following the hurricane.
At the time of writing, the official death toll is 56, but the number of fatalities is expected to rise as many people remain missing.
The hurricane caused an estimated $7 billion in property damage across the Bahamas.
Major challenges face recovery teams as they work to access hard-to-reach, isolated areas due to widely dispersed groups of transient and largely undocumented people that had lived there prior to the storm.
Armstrong is deploying with Heart to Heart International, a nonprofit organization based in Lenexa, Kansas, that aims to strengthen communities by improving health access, providing humanitarian development and administering worldwide crisis relief.
During his trip, Armstrong will handle logistics for both a fixed and mobile Type 1-Emergency Medical Team.
“In that role, I’m serving as a liaison at various meetings with Bahamian officials including direct contact with the Ministry of Health and their deputy chief medical officer,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong will also deal with the ingress and egress (the right to enter and exit an area, respectively) of supplies and personnel.
Additionally, as a paramedic he can assist with patient care if needed.
Armstrong is no stranger to international disaster relief as he has volunteered to assist in multiple recovery efforts in recent years.
In 2017, Armstrong deployed as part of a Disaster Medical Assistance Team in response to Hurricane Maria and served as an operations section chief for a Federal Medical Shelter in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
In 2018, he deployed to southwest Georgia in response to Hurricane Michael as a Disaster Health Services responder with the American Red Cross.
He also assisted in coordinating the recent Johnson County Ambulance District response to the Jefferson City tornado.
“I know it sounds like a cliche, but I sincerely like helping others,” Armstrong said. “[Bahamian] residents have experienced what will most likely be the worst disaster of their lives. If our team’s presence can bring comfort and relief, that’s worth it.”
Armstrong also finds deployments such as these to provide incomparable training and experience for his positions in Johnson County.
“If I can learn from what I experience in another jurisdiction’s disaster, I can better serve the citizens of Johnson County not only in response and recovery but in mitigation in building a culture of preparedness,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong did not go long before meeting another individual interested in helping others.
On his plane ride to Denver, Colorado, he met Mike Hodges, a Marine from Kansas City who has seen two deployments in Afghanistan.
Hodges told Armstrong that once he left the service, he saw he wasn’t living the right way and turned to a Kansas City-area church for guidance.
“We began talking about my background and trip to the Bahamas. He wanted to help somehow,” Armstrong said.
Hodges told Armstrong he had an extra Bible with him and wanted Armstrong to keep it for himself or give it to someone in the Bahamas who may have lost theirs.
“I plan to take the Bible with me to the Abaco Island and provide it to the local team leader,” Armstrong said. “[Hodges] even provided his contact number and offered to provide me a ride home when I get back.”
During his time in the Bahamas, Armstrong said he hopes to better both the Bahamian disaster situation as well as himself.
“I hope to learn, grow personally and professionally and help,” Armstrong said. “These deployments are always so humbling and such an incredible experience to me.”