VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) – Local emergency responders with Virginia Task Force 2 headed south to help victims of Hurricane Matthew.
When Hurricane Matthew hits the southeast coast the firefighters, doctors, engineers and many other professionals who make up VT2, will be there and ready to help with relief operations
“We're just going to plan for what we've seen and probably a tad worse,” says Dennis Keane, a district chief for VT2.
The 88-member team is one of 28 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams in the country. All members know they must always be ready to grab what they need and go at a moment’s notice.
“Extra uniforms, wilderness gear, safety gear. Just everything you need to live in who knows what for two weeks,” says Brian Taylor, as he packed up to leave.
Why? He says because who knows when this area and this team may need another team's help.
“I guess that we always hope that if it was to happen here we'd get the same response,” Keane says.
Thankfully that shouldn't be anytime soon. Team members also says they’re thankful they’re not deploying directly to where Matthew will hit hardest, or at least not yet.
“We're fortunate that we can probably stay out of harm’s way for a little bit of a time,” Taylor says. “It's the aftermath those winds that may still exist or the tide, the water the storm surge we may have to deal with.”
However, they’ll be ready for that too. Last year the team helped after Hurricane Joaquin hit South Carolina and Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, as well as after a massive earthquake hit Haiti in 2010 and following 9/11.
“We've done this several times so we'll get through whatever but the more you know the better,” Taylor says.
Which right now isn't a lot, other than they'll be gone for at least 14 days and the assistance they'll provide is much needed.
“Being away is a hardship but we've got it better than whoever we're going to help so we keep that in mind a go take care of business,” Taylor says.
Canine units also play a very big role in the search and rescue efforts. They locate survivors, using their incredible sense of smell to detect human scent, even from someone who may be buried deep in rubble or debris. Once they find that scent the dogs will stay and bark until responders can come over and help. They can also cover an area in seconds or minutes where as it might take their human counterparts days to do the same.
Team members conducted search-and-rescue operations in the aftermath of numerous hurricanes including Hurricane Joaquin and in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
The task force also responded to the terror attack on the Pentagon in 2001 and the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995.