Rep Spotlight: Keys Strong


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Hurricanes weren’t something new for Brandon Marino, Equine Territory Manager, MWI. Having grown up in South Florida and the Florida Keys, he and his family took the warnings seriously. He also knew the type of damage these storms could cause. So, when forecasts started coming in that Hurricane Irma would hit the Florida Keys, he prepared for the worst. The storm and its aftermath would turn out to be a very personal experience for Marino, as it impacted family, friends and customers.

Dire situation
Communication was hard to come by immediately following the storm. Power was out, phone lines down and cellphone towers damaged. Marino says a few friends and emergency responders managed to get messages out via emergency command centers.

The news wasn’t good. They relayed the devastation was “epic,” and the Keys would take many years to rebound, Marino said. “This absolutely broke my heart.”

Marino, and fellow MWI team members, were determined to respond as quickly as possible.

“As more communication opened, I started thinking what we could do to help – fortunately, we were in better shape in Palm Beach County – even though we did not have fuel or electricity, and the roads were not very navigable,” Marino said. “Contrary, the Keys were completely shut down and emergency responders were the only ones allowed to enter. Given the dire situation, we started reaching out to friends and customers to see where MWI could assist. And, the list of supplies that were desperately needed started to grow.”

A plan started to form. Marino was able to get a hold of a couple of veterinarians and clinics and establish a list of goods that would be necessary for them to provide relief to their community. This unfortunately was a struggle, as shipping companies had shut down many zip codes across Florida and were operating with limited facilities themselves. After the storm entities like UPS FedEx were not delivering into the Keys due to the roads being unnavigable. Marino says this trend went on for 1-2 weeks depending on the section of the Keys.

“With no initial ability to have supplies delivered, we had to develop a plan that could provide much-needed emergency medical supplies. Unfortunately, with no power and massive damage and flooding, many of the clinics lost valuable supplies.”

To further complicate things, the National Guard and local police were not allowing individuals to enter the Keys unless they were first responders, initially. This made getting emergency medical supplies to the veterinarians difficult. As the roads were deemed navigable, the National Guard and police started allowing locals in if they had a residency sticker. This was staged, and certain areas of the Keys were opened while others were not. This went on for close to a month, Marino says.

In the immediate aftermath, Marino worked with MWI’s management to determine how to get supplies overnighted to his home so that he could make a run through the Keys to deliver supplies and assess what more they could help with. “I was able to load my truck up with many supplies ranging from medical supplies to chainsaws, to generators, to fuel, to food/water, and so much more. Between MWI and myself we delivered over $5,000 in supplies on my first run through the Keys.”

Many manufactures also stepped up and donated supplies and materials to the relief efforts, Marino says. “The help was not from one person or group. It would not be right to speak of this in an individual or company manner. It truly was the heart of veterinary community. Consisting of distribution, manufacturing, colleagues, friends and family that saw a need and responded in any way they could to help.”

Marino loaded his truck and started the journey down. “Three check points later (you had to have a local re-entry sticker, which Marino had from his parent’s residency in Marathon, Fla., located in the central Keys) and multiple stops, I was able to visit a number of customers and provide medical supplies and relief.”

Assessing the damage
He also got a first-hand view of the havoc Hurricane Irma caused. “US Highway 1 was littered with anything and everything you could think of. From homes that were picked up and moved, to destroyed boats and household items, the sight made your heart sink to the pit of your stomach.”

As for his customers, damage was variable depending upon the location of the facilities. “In Key Largo we had clinics/hospitals that suffered minimal damage; yet less than one mile away the Dolphin’s Plus Marine Mammal responded facilities were completely flooded and their lab and supplies decimated.”

All the Keys had flooding, loss of electric, severe foliage damage, and building damage. Yet as you ventured further into the Middle Keys, the severity of the damage became much more prominent, Marino says. Boats, houses, sheds, roofs, and many other items were seen strewn across every square inch of ground. Flooding had lifted buildings and roads and moved them. “In Grassy Key you saw buildings that were moved from one side of the road to another.  The road and canals of Marathon were loaded with every type of debris you could imagine, and homes were flooded. This extensive damage extended all the way down to Big Pine. I had one customer that completely lost their home and most everything in it and had to resort to living in their clinic. The damage was like nothing we had seen since Hurricane Andrew.”

Helping in any capacity
“Honestly, I’m not sure you can ever truly prepare for something like this,” Marino says. “Having all the essentials is necessary, but they can all be whisked away or destroyed in moments. The best thing is to make sure that we have as many support structures in place and be willing to put your best foot forward.”

MWI made several charitable contributions to veterinary clinics and organizations to help with recovery efforts. It started with supply donations to customers. MWI made a financial donation to the Florida Veterinary Medical Association, which assisted DVMs assisting animals in the Keys, a financial donation to the Halifax Humane Society and supply donation to Hillsborough County Animal Services.

It’s about coming together as a veterinary community and helping in any capacity you can and are able to, Marino says. “MWI is such a great company that I know no matter the circumstance they will be willing to help in any facet they can. There were so many individuals that helped facilitate the relief efforts and they were spread across the United States.”

Editor’s note: Vet-Advantage would like to thank MWI for its assistance with this article, including the portions of Brandon Marino’s account that ran in the AmerisourceBergen company newsletter.