VANDALIA, Ohio (WDTN) – Nearly 50 members of Ohio Task Force 1 are back in the Miami Valley after a long trip home from Louisiana. The team helped people recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Delta, while coping with new challenges posed by the coronavirus.
The coronavirus had a significant impact on how the team went about its mission over the past 10 days. It began before they even arrived, when one team member learned they tested positive and had to be replaced.
Dr. David Hartnett is the Medical Team Manager. He says, “We are monitoring symptoms of everybody for the next two weeks, to make sure there weren’t any higher risk exposures than what we thought.”
Ohio Task Force 1’s medical doctor says the grueling 10-day mission in Louisiana was complicated by coronavirus concerns. Every member was tested before they deployed. Two members had to be replaced when one of their test results came back positive. And virus protocol affected every interaction on the ground, a challenge when searching and assessing more than 15,000 buildings by vehicle and boat.
Task Force Leader Mike Cayse says, “We would physically make contact in every one of those buildings, take a picture of those buildings, log it to the extent of damage that building had. We also would do it on the waterways, where places were cut off completely and we’d put crews in boats and do the exact same thing.”
Members wore N-95 masks for any interactions, and the base of operations was isolated, requiring temperature checks and screenings to get in.
Logistics Team Manager Kevin Ganger says, “The docs take your temperatures every day, vitals twice a day, checking on everybody, trying to maintain general health.”
Part of the task force’s mission is to amass damage data so that state and federal authorities can marshal financial resources to areas that need to rebuild. They ended up in the same neighborhoods they were in six weeks ago. Many of those homes had not been repaired in the time since Hurricane Laura ripped through, and the team says recovery could be a generational problem.
Rescue Team Manager Mike Lotz says, “To a certain degree you have to detach a little bit just to do your job, but in the same breath you have that level of compassion for what they’re going through.”
The task force member who tested positive is doing well. The team will now rehab the equipment and mentally and physically recharge as quickly as possible, because they could be needed for the next deployment at a moment’s notice.
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