Firefighter/EMT John Cooper has been deployed with a FEMA task force to the Gulf Coast to assist with Hurricane Ida search and rescue.
Cooper, a communication specialist with the FEMA Massachusetts Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team, left on Sunday with 80 other members. According to Fire Chief Christopher Coleman, the NAFD has three members who are part of the team—himself, Cooper, and Lt. Scott Maguire. Coleman is a medical specialist and Maguire is a technical information specialist.
Cooper has been deployed in response to a hurricane before, but that ended with the storm doing little damage.
“It could be weather, terrorist attack, or structural collapse,” said Coleman of the situations that the team responds to. “It’s not known how long he will be down there.”
Following its landfall in Louisiana, Hurricane Ida caused widespread flooding in New Orleans, leaving over 1 million people without power. Infrastructure limits have left people scrambling to get basic necessities. More than 600,000 are without running water, and six people have been killed in the storm.
Coleman said training to be on this team is extensive, and was done each month before COVID hit. For example, a medical specialist would spend a week learning how to deal with crush injuries. Coleman has been part of the team since 2006 and deployed five times.
According to the team’s web site, Massachusetts Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team is located in Beverly. Urban Search and Rescue teams are comprised of police, fire, EMS and civilians and respond to major disasters under a contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Currently, there are 150 people on the MA-TF 1 team.
Prior team deployments include Tropical Storm Zeta, the Oregon wildfires, Hurricane Michael, and the 2011 Springfield Tornado.