Ohio Task Force One ready for orders

The 79 members of the task force, along with another 80 from Indiana Task Force One, were deployed to the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to prepare to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

The Indiana group was heading toward Long Island on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Ohio task force officials were preparing to tackle whatever may come their way.

“Based on what they are telling us, there is a lot of work to do,” said Capt. Doug Cope of the Xenia Fire Department, who is a ground specialist with the task force. He said the group had to complete paperwork before it went to work.

“This morning we conducted helicopter safety training just in the event that we get tasked with a mission,” he said.

Wednesday’s activities also included GPS and K-9 search-and-rescue training.

“We have a very heavy search-and-rescue proponent that will allow us to search large areas,” Cope said.

Most of the members of the task force are firefighters. Their departments are located in the counties of Montgomery, Greene, Butler, Miami, Warren, Hamilton, Franklin and Clermont.

“Our primary objective is structural collapse,” said Lt. Ryan Williams of the Beavercreek Fire Department and a rescue specialist for the task force. “In order to make that happen, we have to have guys that can actually extricate the people and build the shores to make sure it’s safe for us to get in and back out.”

Williams pointed out that before rescuers can work in a disaster area, they have to set up a road system that will allow them and their equipment to get in and out. Plus, the task force includes medical personnel who can help victims and rescuers.

“We have a medical proponent that can treat patients in the field until they turn them over to local medical facilities,” Cope said.

This deployment reminded Cope of the task force’s deployment to New York for Hurricane Irene.

“The team is very excited about being here,” he said. “They stand ready and prepared to move at a moment’s notice to bring it to action regardless of what our mission or task is.”

While the Ohio unit trains for the unknown, about 34 volunteers from American Red Cross Greater Cincinnati-Dayton Region are in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and West Virginia assisting with mobile feeding, distribution of recovery and clean-up supplies, mental health counseling and providing shelter.

The Red Cross reported Wednesday that it had served more than 100,000 meals and snacks and that almost 200 emergency vehicles have been deployed.