ROCKVILLE, Md. - Search and rescue teams from Maryland and Virginia are once again gearing up to help with the aftermath of a hurricane.
Maryland Task Force 1, which is based out of Montgomery County, was on its way home from Texas following Hurricane Harvey when some members were told they would be helping with Hurricane Irma.
The team rescued more than a dozen people along with pets in Texas. But as they were finally caravanning back home to Maryland, part of the team that handles hazmat situations was diverted and sent to Alabama to get ready for Irma.
"Our folks do this, as we all are responders, we want to be public servants and support the community in their time of need," said Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Chief Scott Goldstein. "That is why we come to work day in and day out and ride fire apparatus and emergency medical vehicles. Here is an opportunity where we can help other communities further than the National Capital Region.
"With those 200 personnel rostered by Montgomery County as part of Maryland Task Force 1, we have the capability to staff traditionally two teams at one time. The equipment cache [we have] is about three tractor-trailers and about a dozen different vehicles. That upon itself is significant and very much a large magnitude, but we are taking self-sufficiency for three days for food, water - for 80 people - and we are taking self-sufficiency for specialized rescue capabilities for ten days."
The team is one of 28 search and rescue teams nationwide that is ready to deploy within just a few hours' notice for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Virginia Task Force 1, which is based out of Fairfax County, has sent part of its team to Alabama to get ready and is waiting to head to Florida.
Forty-five members of Virginia Task Force 2, based out of Virginia Beach, was airlifted out Tuesday along with all of their equipment and two vehicles to San Juan, Puerto Rico, waiting to be dispatched when needed to respond to Irma. They are prepared to carry out rescue and recovery missions under a long list of situations from flash flooding to structural collapses.
If you follow them on Facebook, the team has been posting updates almost hourly showing the whipping winds and rains they are encountering as Irma passed them just to the north.
Maryland Task Force 1 is also ready if they need to send more members. They have been loading up trucks at their warehouse and it usually takes four to six hours for them to hit the road.