On Wednesday, September 30th, I left town with a small FEMA Task Force module to do water rescue training at the Guardian Training Center in Perry, Georgia. We were to assist other groups attending at the same time. The NYFD was there along with Maryland Task Force 1; it was a learning experience for me to work closely with the rescue component of the Task Force. We drove back Friday through the rain in South Carolina. Saturday morning I received a call that Virginia Task Force 2 was being put on alert and should be ready to head to South Carolina. By the time Sunday evening rolled around I thought we would be stood down, but the alert came through to report to the training center for deployment. By midnight we were on the road to Columbia to assist with the aftermath of the flooding.
There were two engineers on the deployment, Brian Crowder and myself, which were each assigned to one of the Rescue Teams. Our tasks were mainly centered around assisting the rescue teams with scouting the damaged roadways, welfare checks, and damage assessment of the residences in Richland County. We spent several days in Richland County and were then relocated to Dorchester County. While in Dorchester County we had similar tasks along with putting the Task Force boats into the Edisto River to insure all residents were safe and accounted for. I also assisted the fire department with a response to a building that was damaged by a car; they were so busy with the flooding they did not have the resources to respond to normal calls. A week after departing we returned back to Virginia Beach.
Shortly after, on October 17, I taught the structural component for 72 firefighters at the Structural Collapse Technician School in Virginia Beach. The firefighters that attended will graduate with skills that enable them to respond to structural issues.
This recent crisis has me reflecting on the benefits engineers can provide to a community, beyond the design work that we do. A fellow FEMA engineer is involved in the Engineers Without Borders organization which helps communities throughout the world. Engineers are necessary for almost all the designs required in society today, and we can also help the community and world at large when unique situations arise.