Area rescue teams send expertise, special gear to help Harvey survivors

WASHINGTON — Boats, logistical expertise, specialized equipment and Red Cross volunteers are among the local resources in Texas assisting flood victims.

Montgomery County plus Fairfax County have sent their specialized urban search and rescue teams to help. The teams left Sunday night and were expected to arrive Monday afternoon.

“We deployed a 14-member detachment from our Urban Search and Rescue Team, which is known as Virginia Task Force 1, to the Houston area,” said Charles Ryan, assistant fire chief with the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department.

The Fairfax County team will assist with water rescues using seven boats. Maryland Task Force 1 team members from Montgomery County are in Texas serving in three capacities.

Dozens of team members are deployed along with six boats for water rescues. They will also provide incident management and help with logistics of Federal Emergency Management Agency resources. They will also assist with any hazardous materials.

Montgomery County is one of eight such teams nationwide that has specialized equipment for hazardous materials.

“In a flooding situation, there’s a lot of contamination,” said Pete Piringer, spokesman for Montgomery County Fire & Rescue.

“The hazmat team will assist urban search and rescue teams with the hazardous things that they come across,” Piringer said.

FEMA Task Force Teams have a wide variety of specialties and expertise. Montgomery County's Pete Piringer explains.

The American Red Cross National Capital Region has sent about 18 volunteers to either Texas or Louisiana, spokesman Nathan DeVault said.

Fresh Red Cross volunteers will cycle into flood-ravaged areas every two weeks. Fire department teams also are deployed for 14 days.

Flooding and subsequent issues in and around Texas could be a long-term event, but both Virginia and Maryland’s task forces have additional resources and manpower that could be deployed if needed.

While the Task Force teams are away from home, local fire departments will support their families.

“We take great care in making sure that the family members are taken care of when the team is deployed,” Piringer said. “The kids get to school and get to the doctors, get to soccer practice, the grass gets cut — whatever — so the team members don’t have to worry about that.”

WTOP’s Kathy Stewart contributed to this report.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2017 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

Federal News Network Logo

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up