South Carolina US&R Task Force 1 Katrina Deployment to the State of Louisiana
Hurricane Katrina, a Class 5 hurricane, impacted the States of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana in the early morning hours of 29 August 2005. Immediately, the affected states were reported as being in dire straits as a worst-case scenario of great numbers of victims and fatalities were experienced, especially in the greater New Orleans vicinity. Multiple requests for assistance were issued with a less-than-desired response from Federal assets. In the beginning, no requests for State US&R assets were received from the Federal or State authorities; however, South Carolina was contacted by several local representatives requesting assets to be deployed to the region.
Six days after impact, at 2000 hours 04 September 2005, S.C.-TF1 was requested through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact to the S.C. State Emergency Management Division for a NIMS-compliant Type II urban search and rescue task force (TF) with water access capability to respond to Slidell, LA. According to the request, S.C.-TF1 was to report to the State of Louisiana's Emergency Service Function (ESF)-9 Coordinator, Louisiana State University.
The S.C. Fire Marshal's EOC contacted the S.C. Firefighter Mobilization Oversight Committee (MOBCOM) and issued the activation. By 2330 hours 04 September 2005 S.C.-TF1 personnel assembled at the Point-of-Departure (POD) in Columbia for immediate response and established the Type II US&R response asset (40 US&R personnel with search and rescue equipment, and support) with one attached water response asset (22 personnel with boats and response vehicles) from Greenville County, S.C.
(40) US&R task force personnel including search and rescue, canines, logistics support, communications, planning, medical, and command staff
(4) incident support vehicles with advanced communications packages (satellite and cellular phones, radios, wireless laptops)
(1) tractor-trailer combination curtain-sided box trailer
(1) tractor-trailer combination fuel trailer (Kennedy Transport, Pelzer, S.C.)
(1) single chassis 24-foot box truck
(2) boats with motors, trailered
S.C.-TF1 was supported by:
(24) support personnel including water, HAZMAT, and force security staff
(8) emergency response/transport/law enforcement vehicles
(1) HAZMAT/Rescue truck
(2) boats with motors, trailered
By 0200 hours 05 September 2005, all TF personnel received medical evaluation and briefing on the situation status, then departed for the Point-of-Arrival (POA). At 1445 hours (local), 05 September 2005, S.C.-TF1 convoy arrived at the POA, and established a Base of Operations (BoO) at that location. This location was literally on Interstate 10 at the Oak Harbor Bridge, just before the now-damaged Lake Ponchartrain Interstate 10 Bridge. We established liaison with the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and secured the necessary Memorandum of Understanding. Immediately, a request came from the AHJ to deploy one search component with canines to search the Oak Harbor area for surviving victims. The rest of the team established the BoO and prepared for extended operations.
During operations at St. Tammany Parish, we assisted “Oak Harbor” Area Command in searching several affected areas, noting significant damage throughout the community. TF members interacted with local civilians, worked to provide relief for stray animals, and provided assistance in command and control for the local AHJ.
On 07 September 2005, we received a call for assistance through our LSU contact from St. Bernard Parish; a reconnaissance team was immediately sent to that area via the Highway 11 Bridge and found extremely bad operational conditions; the community experienced a profound urban disaster and had no outside assets other than CANTF, which had already departed the area. Our discussions with St. Tammany Parish found that most all search grids were covered and that operation was drawing to a close. Given the dire circumstances in St. Bernard and that we weren't needed in Slidell any longer, we elected to take this next assignment through LSU and notified the team to prepare for a relocation of our BoO.
At 0630, 08 September 2005 our advance team departed for Chalmette while the remaining team packed up the BoO and transited across the Highway 11 Bridge, arrived in Chalmette by 0730 to set up BoO at the Chalmette Refinery, Chalmette, LA and prepare for operations.
S.C.-TF1 worked with the St. Bernard Parish Fire Department to conduct assigned searches, finding several deceased victims of the incident and assisting with more than 140 9-1-1 calls that had not been answered as of yet from the original incident due to lack of resources, and assisted with command and control. TF members continued to interact with local civilians and rescued at least one victim who had been seeking refuge in a church since the incident and was believed to have been dead; she was suffering from exposure and dehydration. TF members also found several deceased victims of the incident, which were reported to the AHJ as requested.
S.C.-TF1 worked with local, state, and nationally-deployed agencies to provide relief to the affected areas with great success. The task force would have continued on for the length of their deployment were it not for the intelligence received regarding Hurricane Ophelia; as it was, the AHJ released us to return to our home operational area when we finished our assigned searches. Once demobilized, the task force drove through the night in order to beat the projected strike deadline, arriving back in Columbia on 11 September 2005 as the projected strike path continued to reflect an impact on South Carolina within 24 hours. Ultimately, the hurricane only mildly affected the northern coast of the state and the team returned to a stand-by mode awaiting return deployment to the Gulf if requested.