Urban Search and Rescue Teams from Md., Va. heading down to help with hurricane recovery efforts

- Urban search and rescue teams from Maryland and Virginia are headed south into the path of Hurricane Matthew. There are 28 of these units around the country and some of them are in the D.C. region.

Both Fairfax County in Virginia and Montgomery County in Maryland are sending their teams to help in the recovery from what is one of the biggest hurricanes Florida has seen in a while.

The activation notice came early Thursday afternoon that the Federal Emergency Management Agency needs their help. Hours later, these teams started packing. The decisions on who and what to bring are made quickly.

“We try and bring in 210 people, and from that 210 people, we’ll pick the specialists that we need to fill out an 80-person compliment of engineers, doctors, K-9, Hazmat, rescue specialists and then head down to where the affected area is,” said Chris Schaff of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s Virginia Task Force 1 team.

Rescue boats are loaded and ready to go. Their destination is still up in the air, but Florida or Georgia are the likely places.

“We'll go down and then we will recon the area,” said Monte Fitch. “We will develop an action plan based upon working with our engineers, our search personnel, our K-9 handlers to determine what are the priorities, the priority buildings, where is the safest entry points. If there are no streets, we use GPS coordinates to figure out where things are located.

None of them know exactly what lies ahead. All those decisions will be made of course by Hurricane Matthew. The extent of the damage will determine how long they will be gone. Crews said they are ready and prepared to be gone for a minimum of 14 days.

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