East Houston’s firefighters are no strangers to the damage that hurricanes can cause. In 2017, they were part of valiant efforts to rescue citizens of Houston who were overwhelmed by Hurricane Harvey and the flooding it caused.
As Hurricane Florence bears down on the East Coast, three firefighters from East Houston have been activated by FEMA and send to North Carolina to help evacuate residents. The three are part of an elite force known as Texas Task Force 1.
Urban Search and Rescue Specialists
The members of Texas Task Force 1 have been specifically trained in urban search and rescue. That means that they have experience:
- Locating individuals trapped in confined spaces
- Extricating people who are trapped by structural damage or flooding
- Providing emergency medical care to stabilize the injured
According to FEMA, urban search and rescue is a multi-hazard discipline. In this case, the team is being deployed during a hurricane. However, their skills are also applicable in tornadoes, floods, technological accidents, terrorist attacks, and chemical spills.
Stephen Bjune, a spokesperson for the Texas Task Force, said that the team will focus on areas where flooding or flash flooding is most likely. They have been specifically trained in water rescues and their skills may be needed there.
When asked what the East Houston firefighters would do in North Carolina, Bjune said, “They’re able to get in there and do those rescues where traditionally local departments may not have that skill, or might not have those resources, or might not have enough of those resources and trained personnel.”
A fourth member of Texas Task Force 1 is traveling to Hawaii to help out with Tropical Storm Olivia. Flash floods are a serious risk there after Hurricane Lane dropped as much of 50 inches of rain on some parts of the state. Estimates are that another 15 inches could fall as Olivia passes over.
Watching the Gulf of Mexico
Texas Task Force 1 has members from several state agencies and is part of FEMA’s emergency response team. The reason that only three are headed to North Carolina and one to Hawaii is that the other team members are remaining in East Houston. While there were no hurricanes or named tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico as of the time they departed, there is always a risk that a tropical depression will form there during the hurricane season.
In the event that East Houston is in the path of another tropical storm or hurricane, the members of Texas Task Force 1 will work with local authorities to coordinate evacuations and search and rescue operations.
In an emergency situation like a hurricane, it’s common for elite task forces to work closely with local first responders, including firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical professionals, to ensure that the people of East Houston have what they need.
In a flash flood, a rapid, coordinated emergency response can mean the difference between life or death. East Houston is proud to be sending its firefighters to help the people of North Carolina as Hurricane Florence approaches.