Before Fairfax County's world-renowned Urban Search and Rescue Team assists in major disasters — such as Hurricane Sandy — there is a lot of preparing and waiting involved. Much of that occurs in a nondescript industrial-style building in Chantilly.
On Monday morning, the 80-member team — many of whom had been up through much of the night — prepared to deploy to Fort Dix, N.J., to assist in recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. They departed on buses shortly before noon, and only found out minutes before leaving where they would be going to wait for recovery efforts. The amount of time they'll be gone is still unknown, and will largely depend on how long the hurricane lasts.
"We expect to be gone from two days to 14 days," said Battalion Chief Chris Schaff, the program manager.
The team started preparing on Friday, though the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) only officially activated the task force yesterday. The team needs to be ready to deploy within six hours if needed. On Monday, team members waited inside the enormous, largely empty concrete building on Flint Lee Road, as rain and winds around 25 miles per hour were gusting outside. Members each packed up cold weather gear, a few personal items and rescue equipment. Search and rescue dogs huddled in vehicles outside until it was time to leave.
Virginia Task Force One consists of firefighters, paramedics, doctors, canine handlers, and a host of other highly skilled professionals, each trained in a capacity that can help during a disaster. They're capable of working up to 14 days without additional support, according to a Fairfax County news release.
When the word came that the team would ultimately head to Fort Dix, the members picked up their bags and the majority were in the buses within minutes. They do not know yet where they will ultimately wind up. Fort Dix is just the staging area where they'll launch their efforts to help the hardest-hit areas after the hurricane. They will bring inflatable boats and trucks full of supplies with them. Meanwhile, another team will stay in Fairfax County to assist with efforts at home during the hurricane.
Follow Patch for more information about the search and rescue team's efforts after Hurricane Sandy.