Middlesex County Sheriff James DiPaola was on local radio station WCAP (980 AM) this morning, speaking live from Louisiana, where he led a relief column of 19 deputies from his department. DiPaola explained how after seeing on TV the devastation and helplessness of hurricane victims, he decided to do what he could to help out. Within the span of six hours, he had his volunteers ready to roll, fully immunized and mounted up in sheriff’s department vehicles that were stuffed with food, water, tents and other supplies that would allow the expedition to be self-sufficient for at least two weeks. While en route, DiPaola contacted authorities in Louisiana who directed him to a particular parish (their equivalent of our county). The Massachusetts convoy arrived on Sunday morning, just as the local residents were emerging from a church service during which they prayed for assistance. Most welcome, it seems, was the Sheriff’s communications van which provided instant telephone and Internet access for this community that had been completely without communications of any type for five days. (DiPaola had endured considerable abuse locally for his acquisition of this vehicle with grant funds several years ago, so this real world demonstration of its usefulness certainly would justify him saying “I told you so” to his critics). Besides communications support, the deputies from Middlesex County are performing a law enforcement mission, teaming up with local sheriffs to do patrolling and security. It really was a fascinating interview, one that was initiated by the radio station and not the Sheriff. DiPaola and his subordinates deserve enormous credit for this undertaking. Clearly, he demonstrated a level of decisive leadership that was (and still is) so painfully lacking at all echelons of government during this crisis. But, since we’ve been writing about disaster preparedness this past week, perhaps the Sheriff’s ability to mobilize these resources so quickly is even more impressive. To be able to organize, outfit and depart on a cross-country expedition with just six hours of lead time evinces a level of training and readiness that is truly impressive.