NORFOLK (NNS) -- The Mid-Atlantic fire fighting team was activated as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Virginia Task Force 2, urban search and rescue, to deploy to Haiti Jan. 14.
Battalion Chief Donald Washburn, Dam Neck Annex and two others from the Mid-Atlantic firefighting team were activated to deploy.
"I got a call last night around 11:30, and I didn't know until two or three in the morning if I was actually going," Washburn said. "We are waiting on aircraft until we can go."
Since then, he and more than 80 firefighters from the Hampton Roads area have been busy gathering and loading equipment onto palettes and securing them.
According to Washburn, the long days of work are just beginning.
"We will be working every day; digging through rubble, shoring up structures, providing first-aid and doing whatever we can to help people out," said Washburn, a veteran firefighter of 23 years.
Washburn feels that he is well prepared to handle the situation he is about to face.
"I have pretty much specialized in technical rescues through out my whole career," Washburn said.
And being a rescue technician is just what is needed for becoming part of the task force. Technical rescue refers to those aspects of saving life or property that employ the use of tools and skills that exceed those normally reserved for firefighting, medical emergency, and rescue. These disciplines include rope rescue, swiftwater rescue, confined space rescue, ski rescue, cave rescue, trench/excavation rescue, and building collapse rescue, among others.
For Michael Scott, supervisory captain at Little Creek and Christopher Connelly, supervisory captain at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana, this mission represents a culmination of years of training.
"This is my first deployment, I have been on the team for about five or six years now and had a whole lot of training, I am ready to put it to use," Scott said. "I have only been on the FEMA Team for two years and this is also my first deployment."
The team brought everything they could think of.
"We are bringing everything and the kitchen sink," Connelly said. "Common tools like you have in your garage up to special breaching equipment and computer-based search and rescue programs."
But search is only one of their jobs, the other is rescue.
"We are all trained up to ALS (Advanced Life Support or paramedic) level, and we bring everything that we would need for providing medical help for the people that we are rescuing as well as ourselves," Connelly said.
They may need to give medical help to their fellows if a structure collapses on a searcher, but they trust in their teammates to keep them safe.
"We have structural specialists that come with us. They do a risk management analysis and let us know what is safe and not safe or tell us what to do in order to make it safe," Scott said.
But all of them are looking forward to helping.
"I am 100 percent excited, I'm looking forward to using the skills we learned in training," Connelly said.
"We are ready to go. This is something we like to do, we like to help out," said Washburn.
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