Six members of the Longview Fire Department Water Rescue Team have been deployed to Beaumont to prepare for flooding expected in the area from tropical storms.
Fire Chief JP Steelman said Friday that the six members who were activated Thursday by Texas Task Force One include a captain, three firefighters/engineers and two firefighters/medics. All members are certified as swiftwater rescue technicians and have been sent on similar deployments in the past, Steelman said.
Steelman said the group is pre-arranging the area, which means preparing it for potential flood risks by placing and moving assets as needed. By taking proactive measures, crews are able to respond as soon as possible to any sort of aquatic emergency that arises, he said.
“The state is positioning these water crews at different points along the coast depending on what the storm system looks like,” Steelman said. “They will prepare these assets so that they can immediately respond to anything that may arise.”
The team will work under a state-level water rescue officer who will mobilize the team in the direction it needs, Steelman said.
“Texas learned by trial and error to prepare in advance rather than after things had already happened. Many lessons were learned from Hurricane Harvey,” Steelman said.
Without knowing what turn the weather might take, it is not possible to determine when the team members will return, according to Steelman. If there’s not much activity, they could be back as early as this weekend, but if there’s a risk of flooding in the area, it could take longer.
“It’s based on need,” Steelman said. “They’ve built their resources to make sure they have something in case something goes wrong.”
Steelman said participating in groups like Texas Task Force One gives members experience so they become more comfortable in the environment and are better qualified and trained for response work at Longview. .
Another benefit is that by “paying it forward”, other communities will not hesitate to help if something happens here at Longview, he added.
“When Longview is having a bad day, they are better able to help us. If we ever have a major natural disaster, I won’t bat an eyelid knowing they’re going to come our way with our participation in these programs,” Steelman said.