This couple spends their free time rescuing people in the aftermath of hurricanes — here's what it's been like for them in North Carolina

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesVolunteers help rescue residents from their flooded homes in New Bern, North Carolina during Hurricane Florence.
  • When Hurricane Florence hit, Nancy Shipley and Ian Beaumont rushed to North Carolina to help with rescue efforts and disaster recovery.
  • The husband and wife run an adventure travel company called What’s Next Adventures. But their skill set has proven useful in hurricane situations.
  • Shipley and Beaumont told Business Insider what it was like to volunteer in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

Nancy Shipley and Ian Beaumont have developed a new passion over the last year: assisting with rescue and recovery efforts in disaster-stricken areas.

The couple, who originally hail from Florida, run an adventure-travel company called What’s Next Adventures. But they have spent the last week helping people trapped in homes that flooded during Hurricane Florence.

“Our backgrounds are like a little puzzle that fit really well with these disasters,” Shipley told Business Insider.

Shipley is a certified EMT, holds a captain’s licence, and is certified in swift-water and high angle rescue. Beaumont also holds a captain’s licence and has a host of experience in wilderness first-aid and swift-water rescue scenarios.

The couple spends the majority of their time on the road living out of their truck – which they called “really cosy”- when not guiding clients on sailing and rock-climbing adventures.

Last week, when they saw Florence approaching North Carolina, they raced over in their truck to see how they could help.

Pulling people out of flooded homes

On Sunday evening, during the height of Hurricane Florence’s flooding, Shipley and Beaumont had just rescued some stranded people from a road that was quickly flooding when a family pulled up next to them in a car.

“They asked me which road they could take to get out of town,” Beaumont said.

He told the family that they’d probably get into serious trouble if they tried navigating flooded roads in their car.

“There was a moment of realisation for the mother and father. The question was asked to me: ‘If these were your children, what would you do?'” Beaumont said. “That’s a really powerful question.”

He replied: “Well I know one thing. You guys are going to survive in the shelter, and I don’t know what will happen to you if you don’t.”

So Beaumont and Shipley helped the family get to a shelter safely in their truck, which was able to pass over the flooded roads.

Hurricane Florence rescueCourtesy of Nancy Shipley and Ian BeaumontShipley and Beaumont participate in a high-water rescue in Lumberton, North Carolina.

‘When no one else is available, we’ll move in to help’

Every day is different when you’re responding to a disaster, Shipley said.

The couple is living out of their truck in North Carolina right now and working with a group of volunteer rescuers. They have spent the past few days assisting with transporting trapped residents to a local hurricane shelter.

They monitor radio channels, social media, and 911 calls, while staying in touch with local authorities to see where they’re most needed. Once they get a call, they will race out to conduct a rescue with their local partners. Often, they use their truck to tow their inflatable boat – affectionately named Red Duck – into flooded neighbourhoods.

“When no one else is available, we’ll move in to help,” Shipley said.

WhatsnextadventuresCourtesy of Nancy Shipley and Ian BeaumontShipley and Beaumont’s truck and their inflatable boat, Red Duck. The truck serves as both a home and a mobile operating base.

On Friday, Shipley said, the couple headed to Richlands, North Carolina, a town hit by severe flooding. On the way, the couple came across a bridge that was being overrun with water.

“We were standing by trying to see if the water would recede,” Shipley said. “And while we were there, a family was trying to come across. It was a mum, dad, two young daughters, an autistic son, and three dogs.”

The family was trying to cross the bridge in a friend’s boat, but the boat got stuck.

“So we’re carrying people and pets across the water. The woman was asthmatic. As soon as we got her over, we had to help her medically,” Shipley said. She gave the woman albuterol, an asthma drug.

“Once you get on the ground, you just find yourself in a situation and you have to go from there,” Shipley said.

Hurricane FlorenceCourtesy of Nancy Shipley and Ian BeaumontShipley and Beaumont participate in a high-water rescue in Lumberton, North Carolina.

The following day, Beaumont and Shipley were sent to help rescue a man in Lumberton, a town hit hard by the floods. The man had initially chosen not to evacuate because he had pets.

When they arrived, Shipley said, two more families also needed to be rescued. So they had to quickly adapt the plan to get everyone to safety.

One of the most interesting things about rescuing people from their homes, Beaumont said, is learning what’s valuable to them.

“One of the families that we picked up, they wanted to grab photo albums,” he said.

Another person they helped didn’t want to take anything with him. Beaumont noticed that the man had awards from military service in his home that looked “quite prestigious.” But he left them behind.

Helping in the Keys during Hurricane Irma

Nancy Shipley and Ian BeaumontCourtesy of Nancy Shipley and Ian BeaumontShipley and Beaumont assist with the recovery after Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys last year.

Beaumont and Shipley started helping with hurricane rescue work last year during Hurricane Irma.

“We ended up staying in the Florida Keys for nine weeks,” Beaumont said. “We were really able to help people put their lives back together.”

For the couple, assisting with that recovery effort meant loading up an 85-foot sailboat with construction materials and helping local residents in the Keys and the Bahamas clear roadways, patch roofs, and clean up their communities after the storm.

“It’s not about big, life-saving operations,” Shipley said, though the couple has participated in some hair-raising rescues. Often, their work simply involves gathering people with rakes and shovels and helping clear yards after the water recedes.

WhatsnextadventuresCourtesy of Nancy Shipley and Ian BeaumontShipley and Beaumont sleep in their truck, which they say is actually quite comfortable.

“We just roll with the punches,” Beaumont said. “That’s what we do every day, all the time.”

As for what’s next, Shipley said the couple plans to stay in North Carolina as long as they’re needed.

“We never really have a plan,” she said. The couple has also heard about bad flooding in Virginia – so if they’re able to help, they will just pack up and go overnight.

“We live on the road, we’re very comfortable just moving,” Shipley said.

Kevin Reilly contributed reporting.

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