COLLEGE STATION — Search and rescue team Texas Task Force 1 spent most of Saturday surveying the damage left behind by Hurricane Rita and assisting in isolated evacuations in Southeast Texas communities.
Rapid needs assessment teams were still evaluating Rita’s impact as of late Saturday afternoon. Initial damage reports were not as severe as predicted, with Texas Task Force 1 encountering primarily downed power lines, toppled signs and trees, broken windows and isolated flooding throughout the region.
The reports from the rapid needs assessment teams will be used to plan and prioritize ongoing search and rescue operations for local, state and federal resources, which are all operating under Texas Task Force 1’s unified command.
Texas Task Force 1 has 150 members responding to Rita. The team has mobilized a unique combination of water rescue squads and urban search and rescue teams, with capabilities to utilize air, land and water search and rescue assets to respond to significant flooding and structural damage.
Included in Texas Task Force 1’s Rita operations are an 80-member Type I urban search and rescue team, a 59-member hurricane response team and various command personnel overseeing search and rescue operations in conjunction with the Texas State Operations Center in Austin.
The Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), the sponsoring agency of Texas Task Force 1, also has 20 personnel stationed at State Operations Center to support hurricane preparations and response.
Hurricane Rita marks the fourth hurricane deployment this year for Texas Task Force 1, which is one of 28 national urban search and rescue teams under FEMA and also coordinates search and rescue operations for Texas under direction of the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management. The Task Force consists of 200 members from 60 organizations across Texas and is trained and equipped to locate and extricate victims trapped by flooding, collapsed structures and confined spaces in highly populated areas.
A member of The Texas A&M University System, TEEX 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.