VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Update 6/30/2021: Virginia Task Force 2 is deploying 80 members of its urban search and rescue team from Virginia Beach to Miami.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) activated the team. The last time Task Force 2 was fully activated was in 2018, for Hurricane Michael.
The task force loaded two buses and set off for Florida on Wednesday afternoon.
“We have been in the preparation phase now for the last seven days,” said Task Force Leader Daryl Funaiock.
Funaiock said his crew comes from all over Hampton Roads.
“This what we train to do,” Funaiock said, “is to go in and take care of situations like this.”
Each person has a specialty they’ll use to navigate the rubble and assist with relief efforts.
“We have technical rescue specialists. We have our rescue specialists who are lifting and breaking, getting through the stuff, hazmat,” said Virginia Beach Fire Chief Dave Hutcheson.
Rescue dogs are on board too.
“You will see our dogs on the pile,” Chief Hutcheson said. “They are highly trained animals, they are not really pets. They are very driven canines to try and find victims.”
Task force members are driving down several trucks full of supplies. Chief Hutcheson says they train extensively to face all disasters.
"This is a low frequency, high danger type of situation for us,” Chief Hutcheson said. “You are dealing with a lot of weights that can shift and everything else.”
During the mission, the team will take turns in the Miami heat, searching through debris.
“Working shifts from what we understand are 45 minutes on, 25 minutes off, based on the weather conditions,” Funaiock said.
The team is stocked with a lot of resources, but also a high amount of hope.
“We are going down there to do what is right for the citizens of America,” Chief Hutcheson said. “That is why these teams were formed to serve and protect our fellow citizens and these people in Miami deserve everything we can put towards it to try and save a life.”
In Surfside, Florida, at least nine people were dead and hundreds more were unaccounted for after a condominium building collapsed last Thursday.
On Monday, the Virginia Task Force 2 deployed members of its team to help with rescue efforts.
Ready to go at a moment's notice, the task force Urban Search and Rescue team sent down three structural engineers to the scene, where they will help to make sure more pieces of the building don't collapse while crews try to rescue victims.
"This is what these guys trained for," said Virginia Beach Fire Dept. Battalion Chief and Virginia Task Force 2 Program Manager, Robert Darling. "It's a lot different, we haven't seen something like this in a long time."
"We have about a four-hour window once we get activated, and we have to go through all our processes with the team," Darling said. "These guys will be filling right into their roles and responsibilities to keep the efforts going at the time."
It's not just the three structural engineers going down.
Darling said they would potentially have to deploy another larger crew to help in the efforts, as emergency responders in Florida struggle with the exhaustion and the heat.
This team is on standby to get a call in the next 24 to 48 hours to send another crew down to the Sunshine State, but as Darling explained, they'll be ready when they get the green light.
"This is what they train for, and so our years of training and experience that go into it, is what we bring to the table."
Darling said the next crew won't just be engineers. It'll be a much larger crew with various roles to help with the aftermath of the collapse.