Texas Task Force 1 called to duty at 2002 Olympics

2/1/2002 12:00 AM

Texas Task Force One, will be one of six teams stationed in Salt Lake City at the Winter Olympics as part of a call-out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The deployment is a precaution in case of a terrorist attack or large-scale emergency during the Olympic Games.

Two FEMA teams will be on stand-by at the Olympics at all times. The TX-TF1 70-member red team will be on duty Feb. 4-12, along with California Task Force 1. TEEX employees going to Salt Lake City include Tim Gallagher, Todd Reynolds, Johnny Mendez and Al Guarino.

FEMA planned to pre-position its National Urban Search and Rescue teams at the Winter Olympics long before the terrorist attack of Sept. 11. TX-TF1 is one of only six US&R teams in the FEMA national response system to be specially trained and equipped to respond to disasters caused by Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). This is the first call-out of the team under its new FEMA designation as a WMD team. The Texas team was also called out by FEMA to the site of the attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001.

“This is the first deployment of a new team with specific responsibility to go into a WMD environment and conduct offensive operations,” said TX-TF1 Leader Tim Gallagher “We will waltz right in to the hot zone and attempt to mitigate and secure any release of CBR (chemical/biological/radiological) agents, whether in an offensive or defensive role.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity to go and do what we’ve been trained to do,” Gallagher said. “We will be sequestered in an area, so within minutes we can be out the door.”

The team will be getting some additional training in cold weather survival, avalanche detection and rescue and other emergency response techniques while on stand-by in the Salt Lake City area. Before going on the mission, each team member had to complete a minimum of 16 hours of specialized training on WMD response strategy and tactics.

As part of its selection as a FEMA-WMD urban search and rescue team, TX-TF1 has received $300,000 in specialized WMD-response equipment from FEMA. The equipment includes atmospheric detection devices, personal protective equipment, decontamination equipment and pharmaceuticals to treat exposure to chemical or biological agents, Gallagher said.

“We also ordered about $100,000 worth of extreme cold weather gear,” Gallagher added, “including everything from sleeping bags to foot protection to thermal underwear.”

TX-TF1 is the statewide urban search and rescue team formed in 1997 and sponsored by TEEX. In 2000, it joined the national Urban Search and Rescue Response System, which is under the direction of FEMA.

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