BOSTON (CBS) – One member of a Massachusetts search and rescue team is on the ground in Louisiana tonight. The rest of FEMA Task Force 1 is on alert in case they need to go. Seven years ago, the same team was sent in to help after Hurricane Katrina.
“It was just flabbergasting. There were huge piles of debris, what used to be buildings, people’s homes,” says Anita Arnum, Assistant Program Manager for Task Force 1. She and Program Manager Mark Foster direct the search and rescue task force which is based in Beverly. “We would search from the time the sun got up until the time the sun went down,” remembers Foster.
Forty-five team members deployed to Waveland, Mississippi after Katrina. They saved a number of people, and recovered a number of bodies. “Some of the areas we’d fly over we’d see people milling around and what we tried to do was, if there was a place to land we would land, talk with them, see what they needed and if we couldn’t, we’d drop them some supplies,” says Arnum.
Their work went on for about 2 weeks. “No matter how hard it is for us, this is much worse for those who go through it. It’s their worst time and anything you can do for them is helpful,” says Arnum.
Now, seven years later, they don’t know whether they’ll go again, but they do know they’re ready. “In the case of Isaac, the areas they predict 10 feet of water, we’ve been there before,” says Foster. “We’re like 5 or 6 in the batting order. It’s like baseball. It may go one, two three, and that’s it, or it can be a long inning,” he adds.
The task force should know by late tomorrow if they’ll be called on to go to the gulf, a second time.