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Senior Center Director Ray Cardona Will Help With Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

Cardona said things on the East Coast are going "to hell in a hand basket real quick."

Hurricane Sandy has devastated the East Coast, shutting down the stock market, knocking down trees, power lines and even a crane, flooding neighborhoods and even killing at least 33 people.

For us on the West Coast, Hurricane Sandy is a just tale of tragedy, but for Ramona Senior Center Executive Director Ray Cardona, it will soon become a reality.

Cardona is a long-time, on-call logistics officer for the Natural Disaster Medical Services (NDMS), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security and Heath and Human Services. He said he's been a part of the service since the 80s and has helped out in numerous national disasters.

"I went to the Katrina and Northridge (relief centers)," Cardona told Patch. "We're a civilian mass unit."

The NDMS sets up trauma centers for victims of natural disasters. Makeshift trauma centers are made; other times, Cardona said, they take over an emergency room inside a hospital.

"Sometimes we establish our own field hospital as a trauma center," Cardona said. "My main job is to make sure that all the nurses, nurse practioners, the doctors, the pharmacists have everything they need to operate with."

The NDMS team, nation-wide, is made up of doctors, veterinarians, morticians, search and rescue, firefighters, nurses and more.

Cardona said during natural disasters, like Hurricane Sandy, he checks in every two hours. By the 6th hour notification, the team is 95 percent sure they're going to be going.

"Yesterday we were the 12th team up," Cardona said. "This morning, we're the second team up."

The San Diego NDMS team is made up of about 40 people who gather monthly, Cardona said. The team isn't given a location until an hour before they leave. They will fly to a safe-haven to gather up gear and then move on to where they are most needed.

"We're gone a minimum of 14 days," Cardona said. "And usually our days are 18 hours a day."

Cardona's team might go in and replace the current relief effort team that's on site, but they could also establish their own trauma center.

"Things are going to hell in a hand basket real quick," Cardona said. "It looks like we'll probably be establishing our own trauma center."

Worried about the state of the East Coast, Cardona said that the Hurrican Sandy relief efforts may be worse than what most people expect.

"It's going to probably be the worst one I've ever been on. Even more than Katrina. It sounds pretty bad," Cardona said. "We've got three storms that are merging together and one of them is not only a lot of water, but cold and snow."

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