Disaster Recovery

by Marnie Piehl

By 5 a.m., 24 hours after Hurricane Irma decimated Florida, Darci Grunett was headed into the heart of the destruction. And for her, that's normal.


Rescue Workers"In our field, we run toward things that others are running from, " Grunett says of her profession. She's a veteran paramedic with 27 years of service and BSC's Emergency Medical Services/Paramedic Program Director.

Grunett was one of two dozen volunteers called up by the North Dakota EPR (Emergency Preparedness and Response) Medical Volunteer Reserve team. She flew to Tallahassee and then was assigned to Marathon - one of the island communities in the Floriday Keys.

The Marathon hospital was destroyed by the hurricane, and Grunett's team set up a temporary hospital alongside the Red Cross shelter at the local high school. The Florida Keys were hit hard.On nearby Cudjoe Key, those who didn't evacuate didn't survive. "One hundred percent of that key was damaged," she said.

On Marathon, the team provided medications and treated injuries - working 15-20 hour days during their weeklong deployment. "In any disaster, there's no normal. That has to be built. We figure out what needs to be done and build from there," Grunett said.

Before regular supplies arrived, the team scavenged medical supplies from the military, and later, when the local Walgreens opened up, they bought what they needed. "We made the best of it."
Grunett's team included four graduates of the BSC Paramedic Program. "I was thrilled to work with students - I felt like a mom, watching out for them. But they knew what they were doing. We've done a good job."

Grunett continued to teach during her time in Florida. Her classes normally have a strong online component, and during her deployment they moved fully online. "The students thought it went well."

She's excited to have been able to experiment with a more fully online approach. "Some of these classes we may want to move fully online in order to expand, redesign ...and make an even better program."Gym

During her career, Grunett has beendeployed a number of times -- to Minot after the flood of 2011,
to Cuba as part of a flight-based NICU team from New Mexico, and more recently to the Dakota Access Pipeline site. She also has served on medical teams for seven AIDS rides and five breast cancer walks around the country. This time around, she obtained permission from campus leaders within a few hours of getting the call to serve.

"I am so grateful that BSC would allow me to do this. It's all about people in need, and I love the fact that BSC is so supportive."

Grunett returned to Bismarck once the federal response teams took over in the Keys, but she'd go back tomorrow. "[There's] so much to be said to going where people are hurting ... being able to be there for them and help them out."

Disaster situations bring out the best in people Grunett says. "There are no egos at play....It's an amazing way to work with people. It brings out the best in every part of you."

To learn more about BSC's Emergency Medical Services/Paramedic program, visit bismarckstate.edu/academics