COLLEGE STATION, TX — As the nation works to rebound from the global pandemic, hurricane season is right around the corner.
First responders with Texas A&M’s Task Force 1 are preparing for hurricane season, which starts on June 1st, and this elite search and rescue group is ready to meet any storm head-on.
As TX-TF1 gears up for hurricane season, some new protocols are in place, starting with how members get ready for deployment.
“We’ve changed some of our mobilization procedures. Now, when [first responders] get here, they have to stay in their vehicles. They text us when they arrive, and then we text them one at a time to come in and be screened,” explained Operations Chief Chuck Jones.
Along with proper P.P.E. for all task force members, TX-TF1 is using more vehicles to comply with CDC guidelines regarding social distancing.
"I would like to be able to sit five people in a vehicle but we can’t. We can only put three or four people in a vehicle. We have 15 passenger vans, but now we only put six people in those vans to try and keep them separated,” said Jones.
Last month, a 35-person team was sent to Polk County after an EF-3 tornado blew through. Jones says that deployment gave the team an idea of what search and rescue looks like during this pandemic.
"We’ve had no issues whatsoever, so we feel like our precautions that we are taking are working,” he said.
While TX-TF1 is prepared to respond to any storm that may come, they are encouraging fellow Texans to practice the same type of readiness.
"A preparedness bag, everyone should have in their household, especially here in Texas because we have a tendency to have a lot of disasters in Texas,” said Jones.
Though the coronavirus poses its own threat, Texas Task Force One is equipped and ready to provide disaster relief.
The first tropical storm of the season, Bertha, has arrived off the coast of South Carolina five days early from the official start of hurricane season.