COLLEGE STATION — Texas Task Force 1 suspended search and rescue operations in New Orleans on Thursday following reports of incidents of civil unrest involving other emergency response personnel involved in the Hurricane Katrina efforts.
Task Force Leaders report that none of the incidents have involved Texas Task Force 1, and that New Orleans citizens have been appreciative of their efforts over the past several days.
“The Task Force Leaders want all loved ones of our members to know that while the long working hours, heat, humidity and lack of running water are all challenging to each of us, all steps are being taken to ensure all personnel are kept safe,” said Texas Task Force 1’s David Fiero and Jeff Saunders via e-mail on Thursday.
The urban search and rescue team and 41-member water rescue squad spent the day resting, rehabilitating equipment and assisting other FEMA Task Forces with logistics. Additionally, Texas Task Force 1 assisted with several local missions on Thursday, such as checking on nursing homes and hospitals for basic needs such as water and medical supplies.
Members of Texas Task Force 1 have indicated that other rescue squads are calling them the “backbone of the ongoing operations” and that they are setting the standard for the rescues that are taking place.
Texas Task Force 1 has combined with other response agencies to rescue more than 1,500 people from Katrina’s floodwaters throughout the week. Texas Task Force 1 has a total of 123 members working in response to Katrina, including personnel as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) incident support team in New Orleans and the Texas State Operations Center in Austin.
Texas Task Force 1’s urban search and rescue team was initially deployed by FEMA on Saturday, Aug. 27, and pre-staged in Shreveport, La., before Katrina’s landfall. The Texas Governor’s Division of Emergency Management activated the 35-member water rescue team on Monday, Aug. 27, and added a six-member, helo-trained water rescue team Wednesday.
Texas Task Force 1 is one of 28 national urban search and rescue teams under FEMA. The Type I urban search and rescue team is capable of responding to major disaster events, including heavy rescues and structural collapses.
Texas Task Force 1’s water rescue team is a state asset under direction of the Texas Governor’s Division of Emergency Management. The water task force is equipped to respond to flooding and swiftwater rescue events, provide command and control support, and augment the communications capabilities of local emergency responders.
The Katrina activation marks Texas Task Force 1’s third hurricane deployment this season. FEMA deployed a smaller Type III team from Texas in advance of Hurricane Dennis, then the Texas Governor’s Division of Emergency Management deployed a water rescue team from Texas Task Force 1 in advance of Hurricane Emily, both in July.
Last September, Texas Task Force 1 responded to Hurricane Ivan’s aftermath along the Alabama Gulf Coast and spent four days searching and clearing more than 500 structures.
The Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) serves as the sponsoring agency for Texas Task Force 1, which consists of more than 200 members from 60 organizations across Texas and also serves as the state’s search and rescue team under direction of the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management.
Texas Task Force 1 is capable of responding to mass casualty disasters and is trained and equipped to locate and extricate victims trapped by flooding, collapsed structures and confined spaces in highly populated areas. The team is designed to be logistically self-sufficient for the first 72 hours of operation and is able to function for up to 10 days.
TEEX, a member of The Texas A&M University System, offers hands-on, customized training, exercises, technical assistance and technology transfer services impacting Texas and beyond. TEEX programs include fire, homeland security, law enforcement, public works, safety and health, search and rescue and technology transfer.