Beverly-based rescue team headed to Louisiana

·3 min read

Aug. 30—BEVERLY — A team of 80 people from the Beverly-based urban search and rescue task force is headed to Louisiana to assist in the response to Hurricane Ida.

Sean Brown, the task leader for the mission, said the team left Beverly around 5 p.m. on Sunday and is scheduled to arrive in the Baton Rouge area of Louisiana at about 6 p.m. Eastern time on Monday.

"We'll go in and support the locals and support the federal teams that are already working there," Brown said in a telephone interview on his way to Louisiana with the task force.

The team is part of Massachusetts Task Force 1, one of 28 Federal Emergency Management Agency urban search and rescue teams in the United States. The Massachusetts team is based in a compound next to Beverly Airport. The task force is made up of about 200 people from all six New England states and includes firefighters, police officers, doctors, hazmat technicians, structural engineers, canine handlers and others who receive specialized training to respond to disasters.

Hurricane Ida struck the Louisiana coast on Sunday night, causing major destruction, flooding and at least one death. It weakened into a tropical storm overnight but remained dangerous with torrential rain and powerful winds.

Brown said Task Force 1 had not received a specific assignment yet, but will be on hand to support local responders with any type of structural collapse, water rescue, or "wide area" search and rescue.

"This is certainly what the team is designed for," Brown said. "It's what we train for. We certainly don't want anything bad to ever happen, but if and when it does, we want to be the ones to do what we've been trained to do to help the impacted people."

Brown, who is the fire chief in Concord, New Hampshire, said he was part of the team that responded to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in 2005. The Massachusetts team has been to the state several other times in the past few years to help with weather-related events, he said.

"It certainly gives us knowledge of the terrain and knowledge of the potential impacts," Brown said. "Our deployments since Katrina have allowed us to develop relationships with area responders, and the relationships help a lot. It helps everybody get right to work."

Task Force 1 is traveling in a caravan of 15 vehicles, including two tractor-trailers, three box trucks, multiple vans and SUVs, and a coach bus. The vehicles are carrying all of the equipment necessary — including tents, water, showers, generators, boats, medical equipment and satellite communications — for the team to be completely self-sufficient, Brown said.

"When we go in we don't want to draw down on local resources," he said.

The equipment is drawn from a cache of equipment at the FEMA site in Beverly that weighs over 70,000 pounds and is worth over $2.6 million, according to the task force. Brown said the team is prepared to remain in Louisiana for up to 14 days.

Brown said it's important to recognize the support of task force members' families and employers. Team members train regularly as volunteers and only receive compensation when they are deployed by FEMA.

"None of this is possible without the support of our full-time jobs and our families," Brown said.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@gloucestertimes.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

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