JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. — An 80-member crew of search and rescue experts from the Dayton, OH area convoyed to the East Coast on Saturday, hauling 40 tons of specialized equipment to help find and rescue survivors in the wake of Hurricane Irene’s destruction.
Ohio Task Force is now staged at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, 20 miles from the Jersey Shore, and will hunker down here through at least tonight. The eye of the storm was expected to pass over McGuire or within a mile of it early this morning.
By Monday, the team expects to have orders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on where to go and what to do, depending on the scope of destruction.
“If there is work to be done in this state, we’ll be doing it,” Task Force Leader Doug Cope told the team Saturday night. Cope is a Xenia Fire Department captain.
Task Force Medical Specialist Ed Kuzminski, of Springboro, said, “Once we go to work, it’s going to be long days.”
Ohio Task Force One responds to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other disasters. This is the first time the team has been deployed to the New York-New Jersey area since it was called to climb through the rubble of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terrorist attacks 10 years ago.
The team includes doctors, structural engineers, firefighters, logistics specialists and dogs trained to sniff out trapped survivors.
If there is significant flooding, team members may use boats to search flooded neighborhoods for people trapped in their homes or other buildings.
Dog handler Beckie Stanevich of Grafton, W.Va., trained her English Springer Spaniel, named Juno, to use her keen sense of smell to find human beings who may be trapped in rubble. Juno knows to skip over the people who are visible and locate the ones who are hidden.
“It’s pretty amazing. We don’t know how they do it but they do it well,” said Stanevich, a retired nurse who has trained dogs since 1973.
While not hoping for massive destruction, team members say they are eager to put their training into action.
“You want to test your skills,” said Nick Kuntz, who is a Huber Heights firefighter. Hurricane Irene is his first deployment with Ohio Task Force One since the team was ready to go to Haiti after the earthquake in January 2010.