“Now, it’s looking like it might clip the southern tip of Florida and the Miami area, too,” he said.
Task force members loaded and prepped vehicles for deployment Saturday afternoon before being briefed on trip details. Members were also sworn in under the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Reall said this deployment is a “pretty early” activation for the task force, as the team is usually not called in a couple of days prior to landfall. However, Ohio Task Force 1, Virginia Task Force 1 and Virginia Task Force 2 were activated as the tropical storm strengthened overnight, officials said, and the estimated time and location of impact is not firm.
Evan Schumann, task force program manager, said the team is typically stationed several hundred miles away from a natural disaster impact area. “FEMA’s effort is to keep the task forces as close as they can to the impact area, but also in a safe location,” he said.
Schumann said the team is comprised of skilled individuals who are confident in emergency situations.
“This is their normal life; most of them are employed in fire and police departments, or in emergency rooms, so everybody on this task force is generally associated with rather critical, dangerous environments,” he said. “Personality-wise, they are enamored to go in and help their fellow citizens in this type of environment.”
Ryan Marzueuser is a reference specialist on the task force. A member of the Covington Fire Department in Kentucky, Marzueuser said he’s been on around 10 FEMA deployments.
“For this deployment, I’m like a worker bee. I’ll be doing everything boat-related,” he said. “So, going out in the water during or after the storm, and we’ll also do damage assessments in neighborhoods and talk to people to see how badly their houses may have been hit in the hurricane.”
Marzueuser said he and multiple members of his family have worked as firefighters, which has helped him prepare for his service on the task force and the dangers that are associated with these deployments.
“It’s a mindset. I grew up in the fire department, and a lot of these (members) have relatives that worked in those environments, so it’s just kind of with you,” he said. “We like doing this stuff, working with tools and fixing problems.”
John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist with National Hurricane Center in Miami, said Saturday it is currently unclear where Ian will hit hardest in Florida and said residents should begin preparing for the storm, including gathering supplies for potential power outages.
“Too soon to say if it’s going to be a southeast Florida problem or a central Florida problem or just the entire state,” he said. “So at this point really the right message for those living in Florida is that you have to watch forecasts and get ready and prepare yourself for potential impact from this tropical system.”
Ohio Task Force One is one of 28 national Urban Search and Rescue teams.
The Miami Valley Fire EMS Alliance, a council of governments in the greater Dayton area, and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency provide joint sponsorship and oversight of Ohio Task Force 1. The group includes private and public sector members with backgrounds in fire and emergency medical teams, law enforcement officers, hospital personnel and structural engineers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.