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How Volpe’s Terry Sheehan Responds to Natural Disasters

Monday, October 31, 2016

When disasters hit, the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) deploys Volpe’s Terry Sheehan to coordinate massive transportation responsibilities that come with massive emergency response efforts. Sheehan is the Regional Emergency Transportation Representative for executing federal emergency transportation responsibilities across New England, New York, and New Jersey.

He’s also on call to help ensure safe and efficient emergency response for disasters nationally.

Earlier this month, Sheehan was deployed to North Carolina to coordinate evacuations after Hurricane Matthew.

“We’re not going to make you whole, but we’re going to get you to a place where eventually you’ll get to whole, and eventually you’ll have a better day,” Sheehan said. “That’s when you know you’ve done your job.”

A large hole has opened up and collapsed in the pavement on the shoulder of a highway.
Part of a road in North Carolina is destroyed as a result of the heavy rains from Hurricane Matthew. (Volpe photo)

Name a major hurricane over the past decade, and in its aftermath, Sheehan has likely helped coordinate transportation emergency response efforts. He led responses to Hurricanes Irene and Sandy in Vermont and New York City. He helped coordinate the Hurricane Rita evacuation in Louisiana, which involved developing and executing evacuation and return plans for 250,000 survivors.

For his contributions related to Hurricane Irene, Sheehan received the U.S. Transportation Secretary's Gold Medal, the highest award given by U.S. DOT.

Moving People and Supplies, Toll-Free

After Hurricane Matthew, Sheehan and his team set up a toll-free hotline out of the North Carolina Emergency Operations Center in Butner. The hotline is helping the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other responders navigate around closed roads to deliver life-saving and life-sustaining personnel, equipment, and supplies.

A large conference room is filled with National Guard members and other emergency response staff who are working on laptops while also viewing a presentation at the front of the room.
National Guard members and other disaster relief staff work together to coordinate emergency relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. (Volpe photo)

“As Hurricane Matthew disaster response progressed, we found ourselves dealing with a lot of kids—they’re not used to this,” Sheehan said. “We helped devise transportation options so that families could get out of the school shelters, go to hotels and other non-school shelter locations, and get the kids back into the classrooms. It’s about trying to get some sense of normalcy back into their lives.”

In an upcoming Volpe newsletter, we'll delve more deeply into how Sheehan coordinated relief efforts as Hurricane Matthew battered North Carolina and flooding displaced residents.

Updated: Wednesday, June 13, 2018