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Search & rescue personnel prepare for Hurricane Dean, heading for the Valley

8/19/2007 12:00 AM

(8.19.07) - About 250 search and rescue specialists converged in College Station today to prepare for deployment tomorrow ahead of Hurricane Dean – making it the largest search and rescue mobilization in the state’s history.

Under the direction of Texas Task Force 1, the combined statewide search and rescue resources also include personnel from Dallas-based Texas Task Force 2, the Texas Forest Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Department of Public Safety, the General Land Office, the Civil Air Patrol and Texas Military Forces. Resources include heavy rescue, light rescue and water rescue teams.

The group is expected to deploy to the Rio Grande Valley region on Monday as Hurricane Dean, a Category 4 hurricane with 145 mph winds, continues making its way across the Gulf of Mexico. Though current predictions indicate Texas may avoid a direct hit if the hurricane continues on its current path, state officials say the “risk is still there and the consequences are catastrophic” if the storm turns further north.

Even if Texas avoids a direct hit from Hurricane Dean, destruction from high winds, heavy rains, tornadoes or flash floods are still possible, the National Weather Service reports. Officials say the effects of the storm could extend 240-300 miles, and that the impact of additional water in the region could be “equally as devastating as wind damage.”

Gov. Rick Perry signed a “Declaration of Imminent Hazard” and activated state resources on Friday. In coordination with the State Operations Center in Austin, Texas Task Force 1 has formed a unified command structure to deploy all of the state’s search and rescue resources under the hurricane preparedness plan, said Bob McKee, director of urban search and rescue for the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), which sponsors Texas Task Force 1.

“We are working and training together in a unified approach under the state plan, which is the best way to bring the state’s assets together to respond to a disaster,” McKee said. “This could serve as a model for other states.”

About Texas Task Force 1
Texas Task Force 1 is a state and federal urban search and rescue team comprised of more than 300 personnel representing more than 60 jurisdictions and agencies from across the state of Texas. Texas Task Force 1, which also coordinates statewide requests for swiftwater rescue, has operated one of the top water rescue teams in the nation since 2000. Texas Task Force 1 has deployed to swiftwater and flooding incidents across the state, and has just returned from a deployment for Tropical Storm Erin. In 2005, Texas Task Force 1 assisted with rescuing more than 13,000 New Orleans residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

About TEEX
A member of The Texas A&M University System, the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) is the sponsoring agency for Texas Task Force 1. TEEX offers hands-on, customized first responder training, homeland security exercises and technical assistance impacting Texas and beyond. TEEX programs include fire services, homeland security, law enforcement, public works, safety and health, search and rescue, and economic solutions.

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