Ohio Task Force 1, along with Ohio First Responders and American Electric Power, have been deployed to Florida to assist in Hurricane Ian relief. Meteorologists anticipate that the dangerous storm will make landfall between Wednesday and Thursday, and preparations are being made.
Chris O’Connor, public information officer for Ohio Task Force 1 told The Ohio Star that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deployed Ohio Task Force 1 as a result of Hurricane Ian having strengthened to a Category 4 on Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m.
Ohio Task Force 1 is one of 28 teams that comprise the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System. A team encompassing 35 people and a convoy of 14 vehicles with a full cache of equipment has headed to Florida ahead of Hurricane Ian to prepare for the expected emergency.
O’Connor added that The All-Hazards Management Team includes specialties such as medical, logistics, planning, communications, search, rescue, hazmat, and safety personnel. Representatives of each specialty comprise the team in Florida.
“This is well within our wheelhouse,” O’Connor said. “They are well prepared for this. They are primarily full-time EMS, firefighters, doctors, and engineers. This is what they do.”
After the storm hits, the team will assist in rescuing people from damaged and collapsed buildings as well as assist in searching for missing persons.
Ohio Task Force 1 is a self-contained team which expects to be deployed in Florida for 14 days.
According to O’Connor, the task force has responded to over 28 national emergencies.
FEMA requested Ohio Task Force 1 to position themselves ahead of the storm for maximum access to areas of need. The team is currently positioned inland of Northern Florida but they are watching the storm in order to be on hand where the need for assistance will be most urgent.
“As the path becomes clearer we are moving them into position,” O’Connor told The Star.
Team leader and retired Columbus Deputy Fire Chief Jack Reall told ABC 6 that dozens of firefighters from Ohio are also standing at the ready to respond. Firefighters are preparing for a wide variety of rescue scenarios such as building collapses, water rescues, and heavy rescue missions.
“It’s just something we train for,” Lieutenant Brian Harting reportedly told USA Today, adding that the team trains constantly in Dayton. “I’m just glad we can help and represent the state of Ohio and our communities back home and offer some assistance,” Harting said, who is currently serving as a heavy equipment rigging specialist with Ohio Task Force 1.
AEP told The Star that several hundred employees and contractors from AEP Ohio are also making preparations for power restoration following the storm. They will work with other utility workers from around the country to help restore power, and anticipate remaining onsite for at least two weeks to make repairs.
“They have gone in waves over the past few days and are prepared to be there for two weeks,” an AEP Ohio spokesperson to The Star. “We will re-assess based on what the needs are from the host utilities.”
According to O’Connor, “We come in to help when they have reached their max. When local resources need assistance, that’s when we come in. We are not there to replace them but we are there to help.”
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Ohio Task Force 1” by Ohio Task Force 1.