First responders deploy from Philadelphia to aid victims of Hurricane Ian

Pennsylvania Task Force 1 gets their equipment ready ahead of deploying to South Carolina to aid potential victims of Hurricane Ian on Sep. 28, 2022. (Cory Sharber / WHYY)

Pennsylvania Task Force 1 gets their equipment ready ahead of deploying to South Carolina to aid potential victims of Hurricane Ian on Sep. 28, 2022. (Cory Sharber / WHYY)

Forty-five members of Pennsylvania Task Force 1 and all their gear are on their way to South Carolina ahead of Hurricane Ian as the storm is predicted to continue its path through the Southeast.

Task Force 1 includes members of the Philadelphia Fire Department and first responders from across the state who are specially trained in urban search-and-rescue efforts.

The task force will bring equipment for various situations, including boats in anticipation of high and fast moving water. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

The convoy will travel more than 600 miles from Philly to Columbia, South Carolina, where they will receive further orders on where to provide aid.

Pennsylvania Task Force 1 gets their equipment ready ahead of deploying to South Carolina to aid potential victims of Hurricane Ian on Sep. 28, 2022. (Cory Sharber / WHYY)

Task Force leader Carl Randolph says the preparation doesn’t just involve equipment, but ensuring the relationships between the team members are solid before deploying.

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Task Force leader Carl Randolph discussed the preparation for the deployment on Sep. 28, 2022. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

“We rely a lot on each other because all of us have done this or do this at some level in our own jurisdictions across the commonwealth,” Randolph said. “When we come in, you see a lot of handshaking and hugging, and that’s because we haven’t seen each other in a while, and now that we’re back, that’s a part of our emotional support. We want to go out and do a good job.”

Task Force member Donna Garrett talked about how the convoy will handle being away from their families and being headed into a dangerous situation.

Task Force member Donna Garrett noted the importance of team members supporting each other ahead of Wednesday’s deployment to South Carolina. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

“Our families, especially a lot of the guys here, have really young kids, so it’s a lot on their wives left at home and a lot on your spouse, I guess, taking care of the house and worrying about what you’re doing,” Garrett said. “But they do have a system set up where they brief for families, which is really nice. Our families get an email to kind of let them know where we’re at, what we’re doing, and that everybody’s OK.”

Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Adam Thiel says first responders from outside the city, including Baltimore County, will help fill the gaps being left by Task Force members headed to South Carolina.

Philadelphia Fire Dept. Commissioner Adam Thiel discussed the coordination between local fire departments and FEMA on Sep. 28, 2022. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

“The majority of this deployment are Philadelphia firefighters and medics, and they’ll be backfilled by their colleagues so there’s no diminution of service here in the city,” Thiel said. “And again, we get that expertise and they bring it back, so I’m really proud and humbled to have these folks doing this, and I know they are, too.”

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Hurricane Ian made landfall Wednesday in southwest Florida as a massive Category 4 storm producing winds of 150 miles per hour. Data shared by meteorologist Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University shows Ian tied for fifth place among hurricanes by landfall wind speed. Only four hurricanes have hit the continental United States with winds greater than 155 mph.

Pennsylvania Task Force 1 gets their equipment ready ahead of deploying to South Carolina to aid potential victims of Hurricane Ian on Sep. 28, 2022. (Cory Sharber / WHYY)

It’s forecasted to continue north toward Northeastern Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina later this week. According to the National Hurricane Center, Ian’s high winds and rain will cause intense storm surge and flooding. It is expected to bring catastrophic damage to homes and businesses.

Ahead of Ian’s impact, 2.5 million Floridians were told to evacuate.


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