As many residents of South Florida are finalizing their evacuation plans, a group of 80 specialized search and rescue experts are on their way to the region.
Virginia Task Force 1 will be in the area, on standby, to help with whatever devastation Hurricane Irma leaves behind.
Virginia Task Force 1 was founded in 1986 and based out of Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. It currently has approximately 200 specially trained career and volunteer fire and rescue personnel. Its members are specially trained to rescue of victims from collapsed structures, following a natural or man-made catastrophic event.
The team includes emergency managers and planners, physicians, and paramedics. Team members are specialists in the fields of structural engineering, heavy rigging, logistics, hazardous materials, and canine technical searches.
Virginia Task Force 1 has partnerships with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as United States Agency for International Development and Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance for international missions. The team’s name on domestic missions is Virginia Task Force One, but when members are dispatched around the world, they become USA One.
Basically wherever disaster goes, Virginia Task Force 1 goes too.
In fact, some members of the team just returned from Texas, where they were helping with rescues after Hurricane Harvey.
Some of the team's previous missions include Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, the Tsunami that hit parts of Southeast Asia in 2004, the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995, and the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
"Haiti was the most memorable because it was just so extreme in every way,” K9 search specialist Teresa Macpherson told our affiliate WJLA.
"We were the first international search and rescue team on the ground. And we made a lot of rescues,” task force member Matt Burns explained.
While the local heroes are away on missions, the federal government pays other Fairfax County first responders overtime to cover shifts.
For this mission to help with Hurricane Irma, the team will be deployed to Maxwell Airforce base in Alabama but say they expect they could also move to Florida later in the week.
Learn more about Virginia Task Force 1 in this story compiled by our news partners, WJLA.