The state’s elite group of disaster responders is standing by to assist with relief efforts from Hurricane Irma. Missouri Task Force 1 has, or is deploying 10 people so far along with two dogs for search and rescue operations in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Spokesperson Gale Blomenkamp says the Columbia based unit received notification from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to activate additional support late Thursday night. “We have five members that will be going to Puerto Rico, flying into Puerto Rico,” said Blomenkamp. “I think they get out first thing in the morning.”
Those responders will be accompanied by two Human Remain Detection (HRD) dogs. 15 of the Missouri unit’s sister Task Forces from other states are currently in Florida.
The Boone County Fire Protection District is the sponsoring agency of the Missouri Task Force, which is under the oversight of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Only 28 of the elite squads exist in the country, being strategically located in different regions.
Blomenkamp says Hurricane Harvey marked the first time all of task forces deployed at least some personnel in advance of a disaster. The Missouri outfit sent 47 people, which is known as a Type 3 team, to assist with efforts during Harvey.
That team only returned to its Columbia base in the past week. Blomenkamp says some of its members have been re-rostered and are ready to be deployed to Florida if need be.
“Missouri is close to being deployed if they would need more task forces. It doesn’t mean that we’re going anywhere. We have not received activation orders. We’ve not been told we’re being deployed.”
Blomenkamp says the Columbia based unit is sitting in the 20th, or 21st slot on the national rotation to be sent to Florida.
Currently, the task forces there are now being held as a state resource, and are out of the national rotation. The Texas unit is also being held as a state resource from Hurricane Harvey, and is out of the mix.
Given that 15 of the 28 squads have been deployed already to assist with Hurricane Irma relief, Blomenkamp estimates the Missouri unit is probably third or fourth in line for deployment there.
All of The Task Forces are designed to assist local emergency agencies facing a disaster response. When they operate in-state, their expenses are financed by the state.
Missouri tax dollars were used through the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) when the Columbia team was dispatched to assist with relief during floods in late April and early May. FEMA picks up the tab when teams are sent out of state.
There are three types of teams that FEMA can activate. The largest of those is a Type 1 team, which consists of 80 people. Such a deployment would be a larger group than the Type 3, 47 member team the Missouri based operation sent to Hurricane Harvey.
Hurricane Irma is predicted to reached the Florida coast Sunday at 8 a.m.