Preparing for the storm

Published:  01 January, 2007

Pete Gomez, Deputy Emergency Manager for Miami Department of Fire-Rescue and HazMat Co-ordinator for Florida-TF2 explains how this USAR team prepares for hurricane strikes.

Florida TF2 was deployed to Gulfport Mississippi and New Orleans Louisiana in the aftermath of Katrina. Where others only get deployed once or twice in a lifetime, Captain Pete Gomez and Florida Taskforce 2 have attended the majority of disasters in the US in the last seven years. Not only did the team attend 9/11 in New York and spent 18 days performing search and rescue operations, during the 2004 Hurricane season they were deployed throughout the State of Florida. The 2005 season brought Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma and the team was deployed to Gulfport Mississippi and New Orleans Louisiana, where they performed Search and Rescue Missions as well as humanitarian operation. “All went well in the sense that we were able to provide much-needed help to the affected areas. We were able to supply all task forces deployed to Mississippi as we became the main Logistical branch for the entire Base of Operations (BOO),” explains Captain Gomez. More than enough reason for Fire & Rescue to find out how a team of this calibre is set up for hurricane response. Captain Gomez has many roles. As the WMD/HAZMAT co-ordinator on an everyday basis, he fulfills a Staff Position and is responsible for the everyday readiness of the Task Force to respond to a WMD event. He also makes sure that in the case of a confined space operation, rescuers can monitor the environment. He deals with all aspects of a WMD event as well as a HazMat event, from mitigating the event to monitoring to decontamination.
USAR issues:
Florida TF2 is comprised of mostly firefighters trained in their respective disciplines, (Haz-Mat, Rescue, K9, Medical, Search, Logistics, Planning, etc.). “We also have doctors, engineers and several civilian K9 handlers and a few heavy equipment drivers. We deploy with 72 members for a type 1 with 10 additional drivers. We’re palletised for an air response with several tractor trailers that are also ready to respond. We just move the equipment depending on which mode is going to be used. We have a Program manager who oversees the everyday operations as well as the financial aspects of keeping the team operating,” continues Captain Gomez. The Program manager has two staff officers that also work every day dealing only with USAR issues. These three are the only full time positions on the team.
“We have a ‘Staff’ - part of the team (like myself) -which handles the USAR responsibilities on our days off. We have a strong commitment from most members to be able to use them when we need work done. Training is the responsibility of each member with the ‘Team’ facilitating the classes and drills.” The taskforce is contracted by FEMA through the City of Miami and funded by FEMA. However the City of Miami Fire Department also shares in the maintenance of the ‘Team’.
The task force trains throughout the year and has several different locations within the community where they are able to train in different disciplines. The support from the private sector is strong and Fl-TF2 is able to use buildings that are being demolished/imploded for training sessions. “It seems like we never stop,” remarks the Captain. “Our program manager volunteers us for everything under the sun - and rain - too!” The team has disposition of a warehouse and four tractor trailers, which are completely loaded with equipment;
Radios, repeaters, gps, sat-phones, antennas, computers, etc.
Four gas monitors, PID’s, radiological monitors and Geiger counters, Draeger tubes, Ph paper, m256 kits, m-8 paper, m-9 paper. APD 2000s etc.
From level ‘A’ down to level ‘C’ protection.
All kinds of rescue tools
High angle rescue equipment. Winches, come-along, etc.
Several decontamination set-ups. From fully inflatable Zumro equipment to several portable showers and mobile decon set-ups.
All of the equipment is stored on pallets, and ready for deployment. It is all kept in different cases. Harding cases, Ropacs, Pelican, etc.
The Captain concludes by saying that the continued support is an ongoing battle. “Preparation and training on the part of the members of our team is the least of the problems. We have very motivated leadership and members who make maintenance of the team much easier. We look at all hazards as challenges and strive to prepare for everything that’s thrown our way.”

  • Operation Florian

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