MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Urban search and rescue teams from the Miami and Miami-Dade Fire Departments are preparing to help out victims of Hurricane Sally which unleashed severe flooding along the Gulf coastline that includes Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida.

South Florida Task Force 2 has received its activation notice and deployed around 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday.

Task Force leader Scott Dean says the team is heading north, to Tallahassee, potentially to get into the Panhandle to start flood rescue operations.

The team, which is trained to respond to natural disasters, is sending Type 3 equipment containing swift water rescue gear. The equipment includes high water vehicles and pickup trucks which have the capability of traversing over floodwaters and rugged terrain and are capable of rescuing more than 10 people at a time from hazardous areas.

“From Tampa, all the way down to Monroe County, we pick the most elite members of the fire departments throughout the State of Florida,” explained Dean. Forty-five of those elite members are making the trip north to navigate the flooding and debris Sally will leave behind.

The team is also being joined by Dexter and Arrow, two Canines trained to find anyone alive and trapped in collapsed structures or confined spaces that a human may not be able to detect.

“The dogs will be set up and checking you out then they realize there is someone trapped so they are going to alert and bark,.” said Sylvia Arango one of the dog’s handlers.

The Urban Search and Rescue Florida Task Force 2 team was founded in 1991 and has responded to such previous storms as Hurricanes Frances and Charley in 2004 and Katrina in 2005.  The team also responded to Haiti to help victims of a powerful earthquake there in 2010.

This time, however, their response comes during a pandemic.

“We’ll be screening our members twice a day with our medical physician on scene. Making sure they have no symptoms, plus will be post testing making sure they are safe to return,” explained Dean.

It’s an added step they will need to do to make sure everyone leaves healthy, stays safe, and returns just the way they left.

Dave Warren

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