PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — First responders and other aid workers from the Philadelphia area are expected to take part in recovery efforts if Hurricane Irma causes widespread destruction.
A group of local firefighters are already making their way south to help.
Members of Pennsylvania Task Force 1 are heading to an Air Force base in Alabama where FEMA will give them their marching orders.
Two charter buses carrying 41 people and four dogs, plus three tractor trailers, rolled out of a Tacony loading dock Wednesday on their way to Alabama to meet up with the rest of the Pennsylvania Task Force.
“The task force is basically a city, a rescue city,” said Rescue Squad manager George Drees. “We have doctors. We have structural engineers that assist us. We have hazardous materials technicians. We have logistics people.”
It is unclear as of now where they will be sent.
Forty members of the Philadelphia Fire Department will be on loan to FEMA.
Some are coming off work in Texas, where Hurricane Harvey made landfall last month.
They train for the perils for an urban search-and-rescue.
“This shows you how unprecedented this is, this season so far,” said Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel. “They don’t prepare for it, it’s what they do, they make it work, there’s nowhere these folks would rather be. So they’re going to continue to work as long as it takes to help our nation, represent the best of this city, the best of this Commonwealth. We will take care of their families and we will continue to take care of this city.”
Olivia Myers, a Philadelphia firefighter for 14 years, is deploying for the first time.
“I am nervous, but like I said, I think that’ll be all worked out once we start working,” said Myers.
FEMA is directing the rescue teams, and requested search and rescue dogs. Handler Tom Brown says this trip will include pups Thunder, Phoenix, Ben and Rip.
“They specifically only bark at live humans,” Brown said. “So we can differentiate and prioritize our strategy on rescuing people.”
FEMA picks up the tab for these members to go and takes care of these missions.
The same task force has responded to past hurricanes, including Katrina and Andrew, and to New York City on 9/11.