MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Urban search and rescue teams from the Miami and Miami-Dade Fire Departments say they are prepared to help out victims from Hurricane Laura and Florida Power and Light has already sent 300 line workers and crew members to help restore power in Louisiana and Texas.

Veteran Miami-Dade firefighter Maggie Castro who has been a member of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Urban Search and Rescue Task Force team for five years and a firefighter for 16 years said “We are ready to go. If they need us we are ready to go.”

Castro told CBS4’S Peter D’Oench, “As a member of Task Force 1, I can say that all members are eager and ready to go and assist all of our brothers and sisters on Louisiana and Texas when we are needed. We would prefer that they not have to be going through what they are going through but we are ready to help them.”

Task Force 1 has responded to numerous natural disasters including the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and Hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Irma in 2017

Castro’s team was mobilized in late August of 2019 to go to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Dorian and she has been activated in the past for Hurricanes Maria in Puerto Rico and Florence in South Carolina in September of 2018.

“That’s when we were able to help people in the Carolinas before the flooding affected them and take care of people in the danger zone. We were also able to secure the homes of fellow firefighters as well.”

Inside a block-long warehouse behind Miami Fire Rescue Headquarters, members of Miami Fire Rescue’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2 team are preparing equipment, planning to send an initial crew of 25 members and six boats and special vehicles if needed.

Captain Ignatius Carroll Jr. says the team that was founded in 1991 and that has responded to such previous storms as Hurricanes Frances and Charley in 2004 and Katrina in 2005 is ready after being put on alert Wednesday night.

“That means if we are activated we will have four hours to get on the road,” said Carroll, whose team also responded to Haiti to help victims of a powerful earthquake there in 2010. At least five members of Broward Fire Rescue have volunteered to help out of need.

“We are sending type 3 equipment,” said Carroll. “That is comprised of search and rescue as well as a swift water component. The equipment we would be taking is high water vehicles and several pick-up trucks manufactured here with our department that have the capability of traversing over floodwaters and rugged terrain and capable of rescuing 10 people or more and putting them in back if a pick-up truck and removing them safely from hazardous areas. We are also taking 6 boats to help us maneuver through some neighborhoods.”

There are extra challenges because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“With any storm, there are obstacles with the unknown,” said Carroll. “Right now we have to deal with the pandemic and still try to practice precautionary measures while at the same time getting in there and saving lives. To be able to utilize our skills and get in there and save lives is a number one priority as a public servant and public safety officer.”

Florida Power and Light responded earlier this week to the storm, sending 300 line workers and other crew members towards Louisiana and Texas to help restore power after the storm. Earlier this month, FPL send 600 workers to New Jersey to help restore power after Hurricane Isaias.

FPL released a video of its trucks on the highway, leaving Palm Beach County for the Gulf Coast on Tuesday.

FPL spokesman Bill Orlove said, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people in the Gulf Coast as those states and the region deal with an unprecedented situation. They’re going to be there for as long as they need to help our fellow Americans deal with this really strong storm.”

Orlove said “We are a utility family and we help each other out. During Hurricane Irma we had thousands of people come down here from all over the country and even from Canada to get the lights back on for our customers. We are very eager to return the favor.”

The idea of “returning the favor” has been on the minds of many in South Florida, ever since people from all over the United States helped those in need in this region after devastating Hurricane Andrew caused massive damage in Southwest Miami-Dade on August 24th, 1992.

If activated, the Miami urban Search and rescue team will have four hours to get on the road.

Peter D'Oench

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