Vermont water rescue team heads to Texas

COLCHESTER — A Vermont swift water rescue team deployed to Texas Thursday on a 12-day mission to help with the rescue efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott participated in a sendoff event Thursday morning for the Vermont Task Force 1 Swift Water Rescue Team. They will help with evacuations and rescues in flooded parts of Texas after Harvey dumped dozens of inches of water on some areas of the state.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott speaks about the Vermont Task Force 1 water rescue team as it prepared to deploy Thursday to Texas. The team will help with evacuations and rescue missions after severe flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

The 15-member contingent from the 90-strong task force will take two days to drive to Texas with their equipment and two days to return.

“This is what makes me so very proud as governor. It makes us very proud as Vermonters when we see people like yourself for action,” Scott said at the Colchester Rescue station where the task force is based. “In times of need there are no borders. We’re all united as Americans to help those in danger.”

The governor said the task force’s commitment to helping Vermonters and others “is extraordinary.”

“I know everyone on this team eagerly volunteered to be part of any eventual rescue mission before the rain in Texas even stopped falling,” he said. “I’ve always been in awe of those who put themselves in harm’s way sacrifice their lives to protect others. When most of us see a threat we run from it.”

The rescue team is being dispatched through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact at the request of the Texas Division of Emergency Management. Texas made a request for 100 swift water rescue teams through EMAC, a mutual aid agreement among states that provides for the deployment of special teams and other personnel.

Scott said the state of Texas or the Federal Emergency Management Agency will eventually reimburse Vermont for costs.

The task force is trained and equipped to assist the efforts in Texas.

“We continue to see the images of devastation in Texas and hear the stories of countless people still in danger. These are circumstances for which Task Force 1 continually train for. Members here … have years of experience that will serve them and the people of Texas very well during these operations,” the governor said.

Chris Herrick, the deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Safety, said the Texas deployment is the first out-of-state mission for the team.

“They’re going a long way and they’re well needed down there,” he said.

Members of the Vermont Task Force 1 water rescue team prepare to deploy to Texas. The team left for Texas Thursday to help with evacuations and rescue missions in the severe flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

Herrick said Vermont received assistance after Tropical Storm Irene caused significant flooding in Vermont in 2011.

“Vermont benefited greatly six years ago right now from EMAC when we brought in resources to help with the debris removal, road repair and all sorts of areas where we just did not have the resources in state,” Herrick said. “So, this is kind of a little bit of our payback. We needed assistance and got help and now we’re offering.”

Task force leader Mike Cannon, who works for Colchester Technical Rescue, said the 15-member team has been working since Friday to prepare for the expected deployment.

“All these folks here have family, they have kids, so they’re actually leaving a whole lot behind for about 12 days. They’ve taken a whole lot of time from their lives since Friday just to pre-plan this,” he said.

The team is bringing five rescue boats and a logistics trailer with them to Texas, Cannon said. They will set up their own shelter and are bringing their own food and water.

“We don’t want to be an impact on an area that’s already impacted,” he said.

Scott said the team heading to Texas is only part of the state’s swift water rescue personnel. Enough members are staying behind in Vermont to provide assistance if any is needed here.

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