SURFSIDE, FLA. (WSVN) - A specialized team of emergency workers has been on site at the Champlain Towers South Condominium building collapse, and they are highly trained to respond to major disasters across the world.
Miami-Dade Urban Search and Rescue Team’s Task Force 2 has years of experience responding to some of the biggest emergencies in the world, so when they were called to help out in South Florida, it didn’t take them long to start helping out.
The task force has been used to respond to emergencies across the country and around the world, but now, they responded to help out their fellow South Floridians.
“The natural reaction is you want to get there right away and help,” task force member Grant Musser said.
Friday morning, the team packed up their equipment and loaded up emergency vehicles to assist in the search and rescue efforts in Surfside.
“The capabilities we have deploying are live-find K-9s, human remain K-9s, medical doctors, engineers,” Musser said.
The task force was formed in the ’80s and consists of firefighters and first responders from across Miami-Dade. They have been trained to respond to some of worst disasters in history.
In 1992, team members were called into action after Hurricane Andrew destroyed South Florida. They were also asked to search for survivors after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Haiti Earthquake in 2010, but the scope of their training goes beyond weather emergencies.
“Collapse is what the foundation of the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Team was built on,” Musser said.
Team members were sent to the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City and again after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
After the 2018 Florida International University bridge collapse, the team led the search for survivors and the recovery effort for the bodies of those who died.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava explained Friday afternoon how the task force is prepared for the challenges they face in each mission.
“These are the best first responders in the world,” she said. “These are the ones that are sent to trouble spots. They’ve been to 9/11. They’ve been to Haiti. They’ve been wherever there is a disaster, and they are bringing this expertise to bear right here for our residents and our visitors in Surfside.”
The search in Surfside has been carefully planned to allow the team to focus their efforts on where people could still be alive.
“We’re going to have the structural specialists, the engineers, go in to evaluate the area, make sure everything is safe,” Musser said. “We have tech search specialists that have penetrating ground sonar that will be able to detect any tapping or anything on metals.”
However, conducting a search and rescue mission in South Florida has its own set of challenges.
“The heat and humidity, so hydration, work-rest cycles, the instability of the structure, the piles, all those unknowns,” Musser said. “All 80 people have seen the video, understand that there is a lot of missing civilians out there, and they’re anxious to get out there to get to work and save some lives.”
Task Force 2 is not the only emergency response team helping in the search and rescue mission. Additional teams from across the state have also been called in to assist.
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