Texas Task Force 1 Deploys in Advance of Ernesto

By  | 

Texas Task Force 1, the College Station-based urban search and rescue team has been activated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in anticipation of Tropical Storm Ernesto.

Task Force members from throughout the state arrived in College Station Monday morning for processing. The 80-member team deployed for Atlanta,Georgia, Monday afternoon.

"Typically things are pretty bad," Billy Parker with Texas Task Force 1 said. "We don't like to go but if necessary, we do go obviously."

This time, the task force will be ready and in place before the storm.
Tropical storm Ernesto is churning in the warm waters of the Atlantic with its sites set on Florida.

"We will be proactive and be in the area before the landfall," Parker said. "We'll be in a position to move forward when it hits landfall and know the extent of damage in the area."

FEMA activated the urban search and rescue team Sunday afternoon and members were given about four hours to respond.

"I wasn't expecting to get deployed for this and I've got classes starting today and I'm probably going to miss the first week of class," Texas Task Force 1 member Pete Keating said.

Keating, an engineering professor at Texas A&M, joined the team after helping with the Texas A&M bonfire collapse.

"You just hope that it sometimes doesn't happen but, you deal with it," Keating said.

Ernesto weakened after hitting Cuba, but forecasters predict the storm could hit Florida as a weak hurricane this week.

"You just never know, mother nature is unpredictable," Parker said.

And for this team, that assisted more than 13,000 rescues during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, they know to prepare for the worst.

"If it kind of explodes on us it could be worse than Katrina," Keating said. "Probably not, but you never know."

The task force pulled out Monday afternoon for Atlanta, Georgia, where they will be stationed until given orders by FEMA.

Texas Task Force 1 is one of 28 teams under FEMA's National Urban Search and Rescue Response System.
The task force is sponsored by the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), and it's one of 12 FEMA teams that have been activated for Ernesto.

Texas Task Force 1 also serves as Texas' statewide urban search and rescue team under the direction of the Governor's Division of Emergency Management. More than 300 emergency responders from more than 60 organizations and departments throughout Texas comprise the team, which includes members ranging from firefighters to medical personnel.

The Task Force has responded to major incidents throughout the country, including the Aggie Bonfire Collapse in 1999, Fort Worth tornadoes in 2000, World Trade Center attacks in New York City in 2001, Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, Hurricanes Ivan in 2004, and Katrina and Rita in 2005.