BONIFAY - Holmes County Sheriff's Office knows something about leaving job descriptions at the door in the state of a disaster. When people may view the job of officers as enforcing the law, his office looked toward the heart of the community.
"Rank didn't matter, job descriptions did not matter, at that point we were all people," said Sheriff John Tate. As he had hunkered down with his family at the HCSO headquarters during the storm, nothing was beyond the call of duty - as he too joined in with delivering supplies and completing welfare checks.
He told the story of second-in-command MajorMichael Raley, who had committed early on - as did all 65 HCSO staff members - to be there in the moment when a fellow neighbor was in need.
"Major Michael Raley went to deliver MREs and water to an elderly individual, but when he arrived at the residence, there were power lines down over the roads and emergency medical services was unable to maneuver the power lines in order to access this individual's home," Tate said. However, Raley's truck could - and did.
"When he got there, there was an elderly individual at this home and he was visibly sick," he said. Major Raley did an initial evaluation and, as luck would have it, as he was getting ready to load the gentleman up in his truck and drive to meet EMS, the power company arrived to clear the power lines."
The EMS took over to assist the man with his medical needs.
With all hands on deck over the course of five days of the storm, more such stories naturally developed out of the emergency response.
In the time period of the hurricane, HCSO answered more than 1,500 calls for service, according to HCSO's spokeswoman. The calls were from citizens who were locked into their homes without a way to get out to access food and water, requests for MREs, water and tarps and other supplies; also, welfare checks who wanted a deputy to check on a family member or friend because communications were down.
"The awe, the disbelief of the damage caused by the hurricane," he said, of his staff's initial emotional response to the disaster scene. "But more important than that was the way the community came together. The emotions was the intrinsic, unique sense of community."
"People were jumping in to help neighbors that they may not even know," he added.
The experienced helped to reinforce his belief that leading by example is critical.
"Everyone had equal footing," he said. "It reinforced the kind of leadership of 'let's get this done for our community."