South Florida’s Swift Water Rescue Team Ready To Help Texas

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A task force with the city of Miami Fire-Rescue has been placed on standby to deploy a swift-water rescue team to the area of Texas in preparation for Hurricane Harvey.

gettyimages 839010070 South Floridas Swift Water Rescue Team Ready To Help Texas

Waves pound the shore from approaching Hurricane Harvey on August 25, 2017 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hurricane Harvey has intensified into a hurricane and is aiming for the Texas coast with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain and 125 mph winds. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Crew members spent Friday packing and loading to get ready for the storm about 1,400 miles away, should people along the Gulf Coast need them.

“We’re 100 percent self-sufficient for up to 72 hours,” said Miami Fire-Rescue’s Asst. Chief Pete Gomez. “The mission is surf water, high water, flooding situation. So everything we’re taking, it’s designed specifically for swift water rescues, not necessarily collapsed environments, which we normally think of.”

Aside from flat-bottom boats and other watercraft designed for rescues, they also have land vehicles that can plow through deep water.

“We’ve got these high water response vehicles that respond to this type of environment, where we’re expecting flooding. We’re expecting a lot of rising waters,” said Capt. Gomez.

The team was called on during Hurricane Katrina as part of the life-saving crews from around the country that raced to the rescue of people trapped by flooding. Miami Fire-Rescue coordinates the effort through FEMA and includes rescue personnel from Miami and all over South Florida.

“We have members, numerous individuals from other agencies, we have Broward Sheriff Rescue, you have Hialeah Fire Dept, you have Pembroke Pines,” said Capt. Ignatius Carroll.

The water rescue task force isn’t the only South Florida team ready to help Texas.

When the Red Cross sent out an email Friday asking for volunteers to head to Louisiana and possibly Texas for Hurricane Harvey, veteran Red Cross volunteer Jonathan Martin said yes right away. He’s got his deployment plans to prove it.

“It looks like I’m gonna be leaving here in this vehicle with another person, heading to Louisiana,” Martin said, standing next to a Red Cross emergency response vehicle.

Martin won’t leave until Monday, once the worst of the weather has passed and he’ll head to Louisiana first and then possibly to Texas, depending on the need. He’s part of a group of 9 South Florida red cross volunteers who are ready to put their lives on hold for up to several months to help victims of Harvey.

Benjamin Bellucci is the Disaster Program Manager for the Red Cross in Broward. He said volunteers Martin and others shine in these moments of crisis.

“These volunteers are like light in the dark. They’re the glimmer of light in people’s darkest hours,” Bellucci said. “I’ve never seen more compassionate and dedicated people to go to a complete different area they’ve never known, communities they’ve never been into and they help a complete stranger.”

As the country watches Hurricane Harvey come ashore, Jonathan Martin and other volunteers are standing by, ready to provide hope.

“The mission is help people recover from the disaster,” Martin said. “I’m a human being. These guys are human beings. I’m in a position where I can help them. That is a wonderful feeling.”

The Red Cross hopes that everyone affected by hurricanes heeds the lessons of Harvey — and gets their hurricane kits and plans in order as hurricane season ramps up.

More from Ted Scouten
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