James Sheffield

James Sheffield is part of the Emergency Medical Task Force of Texas, which provides medical support for the Texas Task Force. He first responded to floods in Kingwood in 1994, and Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Sheffield explains that part of the challenge of responding to Hurricane Harvey was the location of the relief efforts, as the entire Texas coast was affected.

One of the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina was to prepare early and to ask for more help than anticipated. Sheffield was activated as part of the Emergency Medical Task Force on August 22 and was stationed in Matagorda. After a couple days, the state staging area was moved to San Antonio with a forward staging area located at Tully Stadium near Houston. He was asked to establish a FEMA type four staging area at Tully Stadium, which included about two hundred ambulances, a command vehicle, and a support trailer. Soon, the staging area was overwhelmed with more than four hundred ambulances that had been sent from San Antonio, and Sheffield realized that they did not have the supplies to support that many vehicles. Sheffield called his superiors and asked for the staging area to be upgraded from type four to type one, which would allow for more personnel and resources. Sheffield would receive missions and assign a team to the mission, and then the ambulance team would return to the staging area and wait for another assignment. Sheffield was notified that the staging area would flood as water was released from Baker Reservoir. The staging area was moved to a Buc-ee’s location on Interstate 10. While staging areas typically do not accept evacuees, Sheffield says that they did temporarily house some evacuees while they searched for somewhere else to take them. The state response located places to send evacuees who needed medical care and transported some as far away as Oklahoma. Sheffield worked for five days without much rest, and it was difficult to rest because he kept worrying that he had sent resources to the wrong place. To end the conversation, Sheffield talks about the ways that disease was prevented among the first responders who walked through flood waters and discusses the mental effects of the disaster on first responders.