Md. team deploys to practice hurricane response

A versatile rescue team from Maryland that is often sent to hurricanes and other natural disasters nationwide is going through extensive training this week, preparing for hurricane season.

Montgomery County’s Urban Search and Rescue Team, known as Maryland Task Force 1, was activated Monday as part of the elaborate drill.

“It gives us the opportunity to exercise all the tasks and work that we would normally do,” said team leader Monte Fitch, a battalion chief with the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue. “We do everything from life and safety to humanitarian missions.”

The team, which is made up of 70 members, assembled at a warehouse in Rockville, Maryland, Monday morning.

They are being deployed to the Frederick, Maryland, area, where they will set up a base of operations and carry out assignments just as they would in a real-life situation.

“We will function independently for up to 14 days,” Fitch said. “We will work with the local jurisdiction to see what needs they have and mitigate any problems they have.”

The team includes safety officers, search and rescue experts, medical personnel and six dogs.

They will carry out exercises such as water rescues, search operations, helping people out of homes and simply checking on people to make sure they are safe.

Team members have special equipment that allows them to hear quiet noises and voices from collapsed buildings.

“We also have a hazmat component,” said Fitch. “When we go to areas and we have flooding, with fuels and hazardous materials in the water, they can determine what those are and how we can mitigate them.”

Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the Montgomery County fire department, said the team would be “exercising their full capabilities.”

Much of the team comprises members of the county’s fire department, but it also includes civilians a medical team and K-9 experts.

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