Fire services make crises a joint cause
By Gary Taylor | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted February 19, 2003
SANFORD -- With $1.8 million from a federal grant, the three largest fire departments in Central Florida are forming an urban search-and-rescue team in case of disasters.
Teams typically are called to find victims trapped in debris from incidents such as collapsed buildings, explosions and tornadoes.
Although it could take two years to put the team completely in place, the team should be able to offer some response before then, said Seminole County Fire Chief Terry Schenk, who is chairing the first year of the operation.
Responsibility for directing the team will rotate among the Seminole County, Orange County and Orlando fire departments.
Schenk, who serves on the Governor's Domestic Security Board, said the need for search-and-rescue teams stood out when the board began looking at uses for federal money to deal with the potential for terrorist attacks.
There are two such teams in Dade County and a smaller one in Tampa. The next closest team is in Memphis, Tenn.
Work began in September to create the Central Florida team, which will serve a region that includes Osceola, Brevard, Lake and Volusia counties. Documents making it official are to be signed today at a fire station operated jointly by Orange and Seminole counties on the campus of the University of Central Florida.
Another team will be formed in Jacksonville, and Tallahassee is being considered for one.
A team in Central Florida was considered the most urgent because the area is home to several tourist attractions, the Kennedy Space Center and Daytona International Speedway, Schenk said.
Banding together eliminates the duplication of costs and resources, Schenk said. "Whenever we can do something like that, it just benefits everybody," he said.
The team will have more than 100 members, with most of them expected to come from the three core departments. But firefighters and paramedics from throughout the region can apply.
Team members will work their regular jobs but be on call for search and rescue.
Grants will pay for the cost of training. If the team responds outside Central Florida, the jurisdiction requesting assistance would cover costs, Harris said. State and federal funds would cover salaries when there are declarations of emergency.
If the call is in Central Florida and not declared an emergency, the team member's salary would be paid by his or her agency. Because of that, those who apply must get permission from their department or municipality.
The team would respond anywhere needed within the state and, in rare instances, could respond to disasters around the southeastern United States, Schenk said.
Those applying to the team must have some training in specialized skills, such as handling hazardous materials, Harris said. He expects most members of Seminole's highly skilled hazardous-materials team to apply for the new unit.
The team will need expertise from outside the fire service, such as from K-9 teams and perhaps a physician, Schenk said.
If the search-and-rescue team is needed, only half of the members would be activated at one time, lessening the impact on day-to-day operations of the various fire departments for which the team members work, Harris said.
Much of the federal money would be used to buy specialized equipment, including jacks, drills, listening devices and equipment to shore up unstable structures, Schenk said. The equipment likely would be stored in cargo trailers and thentowed to disaster scenes by fire vehicles, he said.
Gary Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-324-7293.
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02-19-2003, 02:57 PM #1
Florida Gets USAR Team in Central Section of State09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
02-19-2003, 03:04 PM #2
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Stan, that's really kuulll and really great news! So are you applying? Hope it works out well for all concerned.If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)
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Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!
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02-21-2003, 07:24 AM #3
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- Now in Victoria, BC. I'm from beautiful Jasper Alberta in the heart of the Can. Rockies - will always be an Albertan at heart!
This is great news captstan! At last, something positive is being done!September 11th - Never Forget
I respect firefighters and emergency workers worldwide. Thank you for what you do.
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