On Friday, August 25, a group of 80 task force workers, made up mostly of firefighters from Omaha, Papillion and Lincoln, left for Katy, TX, a city just west of Houston, to assist in emergency relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
FEMA funded the team of task force workers which included doctors, fire and rescue and EMS. They’re equipped to handle earthquakes, floods, virus breakouts and, of course, fires. The teams bring enough food, water and equipment to sustain themselves for more than two weeks, but they also bring supplies for the victims they’re helping.
The task force isn’t a part of the day to day fire calls that come to the station, but they’re usually called to help whenever the need arises. In addition to firefighters, there are civilian team members including five canine search specialists with five dogs.
“There are twenty-eight task force groups around the US that have been deployed,” said Michael Despain, chief of fire and rescue. “The crew that we sent out have saved more than 1,500 people and over 200 pets.”
Junior business majors Alexandria Deapen and Myranda Zambrano, both from Dallas, feel the effects of the hurricane from afar. “I have a lot of family and friends in Houston and it’s so crazy to see everything that’s going on,” comments Deapen.
“Being from Texas we aren’t used to that much rain all at once and it’s really sad what’s happening,” said Zambrano “It’s hard seeing my friends and family row in canoes with their belongings but I’m just thankful that they’re okay,” continues Zambrano.
There’s no set timeline for the team's return to Lincoln, but in similar deployments, members begin coming home after 7 to 10 days. “It’s typically a 14-day commitment but when conditions are really bad, then they might be able to stay for another week,” added Chief Despain.
Water levels are slowly receding and conditions are starting to improve. Officials in Texas are calling off crews from different states after determining there are enough resources in their own state to handle the emergency.
The team is expected to make their late return Tuesday, September 5. As they begin the long process of returning home all of the rescue vehicles will go through inspection and the crew members will have a medical checkup as well.
Though crews were eager and proud of the brave work they did in Houston, there’s no place like home, and they’re ready to return to their families and a sense of normalcy.
Caroline Guchu is a junior studying communication.