COLLEGE STATION — Texas Task Force 1 has two separate groups of search and rescue teams operating Tuesday in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The team also deployed an additional six helicopter water rescue specialists, bringing the total number of Texas Task Force 1 personnel deployed for Hurricane Katrina to 123.
Texas Task Force 1’s 41-member water rescue team and the 80-member urban search and rescue teams are both working near downtown New Orleans. Water rescues have been the priority of both teams.
The water rescue teams report that debris littering the water has limited the use of inflatable boats for operations, which has forced members to employ Texas Task Force 1’s flat-bottomed metal boats. The urban search and rescue team has divided into three rescue squads that are working in conjunction with Coast Guard helicopters to assist in rooftop rescues.
Billy Parker, Task Force Leader for the water rescue team, reported that his team has been involved in more than 20 rescues as of 3 p.m.
Additional Texas Task Force 1 personnel are 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 is one of 28 national urban search and rescue teams under FEMA. The 70-member team and additional 10 support personnel were activated by FEMA on Saturday. 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.