Texas Task Force 1 demobilized its New Orleans search and rescue operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday and began preparing for Tropical Storm Rita, which is projected to strengthen into a hurricane and threaten the Texas coast later this week.
Gov. Rick Perry recalled Texas Task Force 1’s 75-member urban search and rescue team along with the Texas National Guard and other emergency personnel and equipment from Louisiana on Monday in anticipation of Tropical Storm Rita entering the Gulf of Mexico.
Texas Task Force 1 is preparing to pre-stage hurricane/water task forces possibly as early as Thursday. The teams, which will include a unique combination of water rescue squads and urban search and rescue resources, will be comprised of personnel who have been on standby during the Katrina operations.
“We have the ability to utilize the resources of approximately 200 specially trained emergency responders from 60 organizations throughout the state of Texas,” said Bob McKee, director of emergency response and rescue for the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), the task force’s sponsoring agency. “In this active hurricane season, we have had an unprecedented number of deployments in terms of both personnel and equipment. Our ability to meet these varied and overlapping missions is a testament to our training and personnel, as well as the planning and preparation of the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management.”
Texas Task Force 1 concludes its Katrina operations after being involved in 13,000 rescues. The New Orleans search and rescue efforts included deployments of an 80-member urban search and rescue team, a 41-member water strike team and a 75-member urban search and rescue team. Eight additional members served in various capacities with FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and the Texas State Operations Center.
The 75-member urban search and rescue team is expected to arrive from New Orleans at its College Station headquarters late Tuesday night. Texas Task Force 1 began its Katrina deployment on Aug. 27, two days prior to the hurricane’s landfall.
If Tropical Storm Rita strengthens into a hurricane, it will mark Texas Task Force 1’s fourth hurricane deployment this year. FEMA deployed a smaller Type III team from Texas in advance of Hurricane Dennis, then the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management deployed a water rescue team from Texas Task Force 1 in advance of Hurricane Emily, both in July.
Texas Task Force 1 is one of 28 national urban search and rescue teams under FEMA and also coordinates search and rescue operations for Texas under direction of the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management. The team 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.