Boone County rescue unit arrives on East Coast for Hurricane Sandy

The task force was deployed with 80 members and more than 100,000 pounds of equipment.

Members of the Missouri Task Force 1 volunteer team gather at a military facility near Trenton, N.J., before heading on to Flushing, N.Y. The task force was deployed Monday night to help with hurricane relief on the East Coast. Photo Courtesy of the Boone County Fire Protection District

A team of Boone County volunteers is stationed in New York to assist with search and rescue efforts following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

Missouri Task Force 1, an urban search and rescue unit, was activated for deployment to the East Coast on Monday.

"An Urban Search and Rescue Task Force is a 70-member team that is qualified and equipped to search for and rescue victims entombed in collapsed reinforced concrete and steel structures," the Boone County Fire Protection District website states.

As a federal resource, Missouri Task Force 1 is on call for federal disaster response. Missouri Task Force 1, based in Boone County, is trained and equipped following the rigorous Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines.

"We have remained at staging, so we have not been actually assigned to any missions," said Gale Blomenkamp, spokesman for the Boone County Fire Protection District.

In the event of a significant disaster, such as an earthquake or hurricane, FEMA may issue an alert to Missouri Task Force 1. The alert is informational and signals that task force members should determine their availability and prepare for possible deployment.

Missouri Task Force 1 was put on alert Monday morning along with Ohio Task Force 1, Indiana Task Force 1 and Tennessee Task Force 1.

After the initial notification, an activation request may be issued. Upon activation, the team must be on military aircraft within six hours with at least 70 personnel and 100,000 pounds of equipment, the fire protection district website states.

In addition to Missouri Task Force 1, Virginia Task Force 1 and 2, along with Maryland Task Force 1, were activated Monday morning and staged in Virginia and New Jersey. Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee were deployed Monday afternoon.

Eighty members of Missouri Task Force 1 assembled at 9 p.m. Monday at the Boone County Fire Protection District headquarters to depart for the East Coast.

"(The team) took all kinds of heavy concrete lifting, breaching and shoring equipments as well as water rescue equipment," Blomenkamp said.

The district is posting updates of the task force's situation and assignments on its Facebook page. According to the updates, the team was initially headed to Virginia, later reassigned to New Jersey and eventually to New York.

Missouri and Ohio's task forces were assigned as Rapid Response Force Packages at noon Wednesday, and they received two Chinook and six Blackhawk helicopters to aid in search and rescue.

Blomenkamp said a Rapid Response Force Package is a set of equipment and personnel that can provide quick access to a critical area, such as the use of Blackhawk helicopters to get to certain areas that might not be accessible by ground.

At the moment, there is no information on when the task force will return to Missouri.

In 1997, Missouri Task Force 1 was designated by the FEMA as one of 28 Federal Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces in the nation.

Missouri Task Force 1 was deployed for Sept. 11 relief and most recently to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

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