ITD crews part of frontline pandemic response

Assisting with the efforts to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and offer essential services, ITD has spooled up more resources in emergency services to deliver medical protective gear across the state.

During the pandemic, ITD resources are called upon to provide critical transportation services. This can be many different tasks including traffic control, hazard removal, or road repairs. Most recently, crews in southern and southwestern Idaho have answered the call as couriers to transport medical personal protective equipment (PPE) from warehouses in Boise to communities with the greatest need.

ITD Emergency Manager Neal “Murph” Murphy is spearheading the effort.

“We’re working side-by-side with the Idaho Office of Emergency Management to provide them the resources they need,” said Murph. “I sit in the emergency operations center in Gowen Field and coordinate between IOEM, other agencies, and the Department. I keep tabs on the available resources we have and help deploy them as the need arrives. Within the emergency operations field, our work is classified as ESF-1, or emergency support function, one – Transportation.”

The need across the state right now is for more PPE. Hospitals running low on supplies reach out to their area Health District. The District sends a request to IOEM, which prioritizes the needs and creates a mission list. Murph and his team (Dan Conner /Jamie Westmoreland) then staff it through leadership. If we can support the missions it is accepted and our crews spring into action. Murph has bolstered the effort by adding Dan Connor and Jamie Westmoreland to his team.

One man on the frontline of these missions is Marsing TOTL, Camilo Serrano. He and his crew completed five missions last week, delivering supplies to Lewiston, Duck Valley, and Twin Falls. Crews on the missions included Tim Streagle, Jeremy Grantham, Mike Vines, Mike Benton, and Greg Wolfgang. On one particularly distant mission to Fort Hall, D4’s Jason Fisher met the crew halfway and finished the delivery.

“It’s an honor to be part of the response to the pandemic,” said Camilo. “We’re all here to help each other and assist. That’s what ITD does. Everyone is on board to help out with anything that comes our way.”

During the pandemic, things are coming fast. While it’s hard to argue there’s such a thing as a “regular” day for our operators, when a mission is created crews are quick to drop the day’s original plan and take up the call to action.

“When Murph calls us, it’s like ‘we need to have this done – two hours ago,’” Camilo said. “We’ve been happy to step up and help out.”

The efforts so far are likely just the beginning for missions that will be rolling out over the next several weeks. Federal aid and medical supplies continue to come into the state and will need distribution.

“FEMA looks at us as a lifeline,” said Murph. “If roads aren’t open and covered with snow, the trucks with toilet paper and PPE can’t get to where it’s needed.”

Published 04-10-20