Local special task force preparing for deployment to Caribbean ahead of Dorian

MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) - Members of the Florida Task Force 2 in Miami are preparing to deploy to the Caribbean as Tropical Storm Dorian continues to move across the Caribbean.

7News cameras captured firefighters putting together rescue pallets at the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue warehouse along Northwest Seventh Street, Sunday night.

“We want to make sure that locals there get the most immediate assistance possible,” said City of Miami Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Scott Dean, “so that if there’s any life-threatening situations, they can be treated and cared for accordingly.”

Miami Fire Rescue is sponsoring the deployment and is comprised of elite-level first responders from agencies across South Florida. Task Force 2 is one of 28 task force teams stationed across the country.

“We got alerted [Sunday] night from [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] to potentially deploy [Monday] to either Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico,” said Dean. “FEMA has activated us as a Type 4, which is a 25-member personnel to deploy to St. Croix. We’ll be flying out at sometime between 4 and 6 [a.m.], getting to airport and then loading everything up and getting up and on our way as soon as possible.”

The preparations are taking place hours after task force members were informed to remain on standby to fly out at a moment’s notice.

“We’re prepared for anything. Just like the fire department, we always respond to whatever the call might be,” said Dean, “so we’re ready for whatever might come our way.”

Monday afternoon, task force members continued to wait for deployment orders.

“We have our communications so that we have the ability to communicate. We have our rescue equipment in case we come across a building collapse or something of that magnitude,” said Dean, “and then the swift water [boats] in case we come across any moving or active water, where we have to save somebody’s life and rescue them out of that, we can.”

As Dorian continues to churn and make its way west with the possibility of intensifying, long lines began to form across Puerto Rico as residents purchased supplies.

7News cameras captured dozens of shoppers picking up bottled water and other supplies inside the Costco in Carolina, Monday afternoon.

“Every storm is different,” Dean said. “We try to be prepared for anything that we could get, but there’s really… it’s the unknown. You won’t know until it’s already come through and see what the aftermath is.”

Florida Task Force 1, comprised of first responders from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, will fly out to Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

“Right after the storm subsides, and obviously we can get out, we immediately start doing our window surveys and driving around and seeing what type of destruction there is,” said Andy Alvarez with Task Force 1.

Forty-five Task Force 1 members could be seen preparing for the flight at their training center in Doral, Monday afternoon.

“The area is not 100% recovered from … or even beginning to 100% recover from their previous hurricane, Maria, so we already have structures that could already not be stable,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Kirsten Miller said. “They could be affected again, so we have shoring equipment. We have all kinds of medical equipment that could go in and help to stabilize someone until we can get them to a doctor or hospital.”

Still, those on the task force are all too familiar in dealing with devastation.

“We have the people that have the fuel. We know the people that have the water, so we kind of made those connections when we were there,” Alvarez said. “I think that having Florida Task Force 1 and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue there I think will be beneficial.”

Meanwhile, members of Florida Task Force 2 said they are ready to help residents in the Caribbean.

“We’ll be there before the storm hits, ride out the storm,” said Dean. “As soon as it’s clear enough or safe enough for us to go to work, we will … We just want to help. We want to make sure that they get what they need and that everybody is safe. It’s a difficult task to ask these members to leave their families, not knowing where this storm could ultimately come or end up.”

Just about everyone tapped for the trip has seen their fair share of disaster zones and typically expect to stay away up to 14 days.

“We see a lot of bad things and death and destruction, but when you can save one life, that makes a difference,” said Alvarez.

Florida Task Force 2 members departed from Miami International Airport and are en route to St. Croix.

7News cameras captured the team checking in their baggage as they prepared for their flight.

Florida Task Force 1 is expected to depart sometime around 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., Tuesday.

Copyright 2019 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.