Engines roared and lights flashed as Task Force 1 rolled into the Boone County Fire Protection District Headquarters late Sunday morning.

Task Force 1, a team of over 40 first responders and utility workers based in mid-Missouri, was originally deployed Aug. 30 to Jacksonville, Florida, in preparation for Hurricane Dorian making landfall to aid in search-and-rescue operations with local agencies.

The task force, managed by the Fire Protection District, was then redeployed a few days later to Columbia, South Carolina.

As one of 28 different urban search and rescue teams around the country, Task Force 1 responders work in disaster areas upon orders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As the task force members arrived Sunday back in Columbia, various friends and family waited outside the headquarters to welcome them back. One person waiting was Brian Coleman from Alberta, Canada. He and his wife, Mary Jane Coleman, were on their way to visit their daughter, Eliza Vatterott, in St. Louis two weeks ago when Eliza’s husband, Tom Vatterott, was deployed as part of Task Force 1.

The couple stayed in Missouri the nine days Tom was gone, and they were “here to welcome him home,” Brian Coleman said.

Another family member waiting Sunday was Bobbi Malone, who lives in Columbia. She was there to welcome back her brother, Jeremiah VanBlack, who was deployed with the task force. She said she was “here to welcome him home and show him support.”

Terry Cassil, the chief safety officer on this deployment, said at a news conference Sunday that he was glad every member of Task Force 1 made it back to Columbia safely.

Task Force 1 is made up of members from all over Missouri. As such, it takes some task force members three or four hours to get back home, and Cassil said that he would feel fully relieved when all task force members made it back to their homes.

Rescue Team Manager Tim Dorsey reiterated that every deployment is different. This deployment was the first one this year, after several deployments in the last two years to aid with hurricane relief in wake of storms such as Hurricane Harvey, according to previous Missourian reporting.

This task force did not see much in devastation, as it was not in areas where the storm made landfall, Dorsey said. The task force tends to stay out of “immediate danger areas,” where there is an imminent threat to the vicinity. The task force would then come in right after the storm passes to aid in relief, specifically search and rescue missions.

Supervising editor is Kaleigh Feldkamp.

  • Public Life Reporter, Fall 2019. Studying Investigative Journalism and Political Science. Contact me at paulschloesser@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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