MIAMI (WSVN) - Some of South Florida’s finest are gearing up to help people in the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Ida inches closer to the region.
About 80 members of Florida Task Force 2 and 45 members of Florida Task Force 1 have been deployed.
7News cameras captured several of the first responders in Task Force 2 as they were underwent a medical check-up in Miami, Friday evening. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all members of the task force must test negative for COVID-19 before they are deployed.
City of Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll will be among the first responders to head up to the Gulf Coast area. He listed some of the equipment they are bringing along.
“You bring in equipment that’s going to allow us to be effective in our job … so you have high water vehicles that will allow us to traverse through any kind of flooded areas, any kind of terrain that otherwise could not be accessible,” he said. “That’s why we need vehicles; we have boats. We have our K-9 that are going with us, search-and-rescue specialists, hazardous materials personnel.”
Meanwhile, members of Florida Task Force 1 packed their vehicles at a location in Doral.
The task forces will be stationed on the outskirts of the areas where the storm is expected to hit.
“We’ll be staging in Alabama as the storm passes, and then we’ll be going into operations as soon as it’s safe to start our rescue mission,” said Scott Dean, the leader of Florida Task Force 2.
“We want to be closer with our assets to the area that’s going to be mostly affected, so that we can respond as quickly as possible as soon as it is safe to do so,” said Maggie Castro, a rescue specialist from Florida Task Force 1.
The crews are taking everything they would need with them, including enough food and water to last them for the next 14 days.
“With Mother Nature, there’s no way to determine what she’s going to do, so unfortunately, we’ll know more as the time progresses,” said Dean.
Rescuers expect to see damage from powerful winds and flooding.
“The most important part of this is planning,” said Carroll.
Among the South Florida first responders heading north are several who assisted in search-and-rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“It brings back memories, of course,” said Dean.
“It is emotional. Some of them are going back to that area. Me being a native of New Orleans, it’s like, ‘Wow, we’re going back?’ said Carroll. “But we’re hoping that this hurricane does not cause the type of damage that we have seen in the past, because we know Louisiana has been hit by several hurricanes over the past couple of years.”
Earlier this summer, several task force members took part in recovery efforts at the site of the partial collapse of Champlain Towers’ South building in Surfside.
When asked whether the first responders who searched for survivors in Surfside are prepared to deal with the upcoming mission, Carroll replied, “When you take a position that is search-and-rescue, you have a skill set that is above your normal response from public safety, and these men and women have been through these situations before.”
“These men and women were deployed for 29 days to Surfside. It was very brutal, definitely mentally and physically, on our members, but they’re ready to go and do the job that they’re trained to do,” said Dean.
Dean said they are all ready for whatever may come their way.
“The bad part is that if we’re going, it’s because people’s lives are going to be destroyed, and that we never want to see happen,” he said, “so we don’t want to get deployed, but if something does come, we want to make sure that our task force is there to help.”
As of 10 p.m., some members of the Task Force 2 have left, but others were still getting ready. Task Force 1 members were still in Doral making final preparations.
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