DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Ohio Task Force 1 (OH-TF1) has been officially activated as a Type III Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) team for a response to Louisiana in preparation of landfall from Hurricane Ida.
A Type III team includes a full equipment cache, including water rescue equipment, a 16-person water rescue team and Canine search teams. The entire roster will be composed of a 45-person team, made up of members from across the Ohio area.
“It’s like being in the firehouse, when the tones go off and we go on a run, there’s usually a little bit of that adrenaline rush kicks in regardless what kind of call it is,” OH-TF1 member with the Dayton Fire Department Neil Patnaude said when asked about getting the activation call.
The team will stage at a location in the State of Louisiana for rapid deployment into affected areas of the storm landing. OH-TF1 left Vandalia Friday evening and anticipates arriving Saturday evening.
OH-TF1 project manager Evan Schumann said the team is always prepared to respond, but during hurricane season, they keep an eye on storms as they develop because they get activated.
“We started rostering the team this morning, even before FEMA activated us, because we anticipated our engagement in this hurricane,” Schumann said. “Even since yesterday we had been looking at our fleet configuration.”
For this response, COVID-19 is again a factor as cases rise and FEMA has reinstated some of their protocols. This includes masks and COVID-19 testing for all members.
“We have to keep all the individual squads and parts of the team isolated to their own vehicles, their own tables when we eat, make sure we keep vehicle people in the same hotel rooms,” Schumann said.
Patenaude, who has been deployed to several hurricanes, said each response is different, but their mission is the same.
“We’re here to help, we’re here to help serve the community in whatever function that may be, so whether it’s handing out bottles of water or doing the water rescues.”
Tropical Storm Ida swirled toward a strike on Cuba on Friday as a rapidly intensifying storm that could speed across warm Gulf waters and slam into Louisiana as a Category 3 hurricane on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center warned.
“The forecast track has it headed straight towards New Orleans. Not good,” said Jim Kossin, a senior scientist with The Climate Service.
The task force recently had been in Florida assisting with rescue and recovery efforts after the June collapse of a condo building in Surfside. The team was activated for deployment on June 30 after the 12-story building collapsed on June 24, killing dozens of people.
OH-TF1 recovered 14 victims from the Champlain Tower collapse during that time. For ten days straight, task force members worked 12-hour rotating shifts until Florida officials gave them the all-clear.