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0904-Indiana Rescue Team Finishes Its Task

0904-Indiana Rescue Team Finishes Its Task

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Published by: Tom S on Aug 30, 2010
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08/29/2010

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Solemn service: In a ceremony attheir camp, members of Task ForceOne folded a flag they found during asearch Saturday in Biloxi, Miss. --Sam Riche / The Star
 
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September 4, 2005
 
RELIEF EFFORTS
Indiana rescue team finishes its task
By Tom Spalding
tom.spalding@indystar.com
 
BILOXI, Miss. -- Bill Brown wants to be sure Hoosiers know the kind of sacrifice members of the Indiana-basedTask Force One -- who will leave for home this morning -- made in responseto Hurricane Katrina.Which explains some of his reasons for knocking on the door of a recreationalvehicle at 11:30 p.m. Thursday to roustreporters recording the search-and-rescue team's efforts."You'll want to see this," Brown, 48,Indianapolis, said once the door opened."Bring your camera."He escorted a reporter to "HurricaneLatrina," a makeshift outhouse that teammembers cobbled together after a truck transporting portable toilets to the rescueworkers' camp was hijacked.While some of the federal disaster relief agencies responding to the devastatingAug. 29 hurricane keep reporters atarm's length, Brown's approach is justthe opposite. The Indianapolis firefighter and task force coordinator wants the public to share in every moment fromthe front line -- even the light-heartedones.After driving 884 miles through five states, the Indiana team made up of 30men, four women and four search dogs received word Saturday that its job 
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was done. The team was expected to get on the road to Indianapolis after  breakfast today and be home sometime Monday.It had spent four grueling days searching homes and buildings whereKatrina had pummeled miles of beachfront casinos and other touristattractions. Her winds blew apart thousands of residences farther inland.After painstaking searches that extended well into the evening, the Hoosier rescuers plucked one survivor from the wreckage and rescued a womaninjured after a fence fell on her. They also found one dead body.The man they rescued, thought to be in his 70s, was found in the rubble of his home. It was the first time in the 13-year history of the group that itsmembers had found someone alive in a disaster."If it's one life that's saved out of all the local, state and federal resources being used, it is well worth it," Brown said afterward.
About the task force
Indiana's Task Force One was founded in 1992. The Federal EmergencyManagement Agency sponsors 28 such teams nationwide.The teams include mostly firefighters, but its members also are trained toevaluate and stabilize damaged structures, conduct searches and rescues incollapsed buildings, and provide emergency medical care.The team also can send in specially trained dogs to look for survivors.The task force has been called on to respond to hurricanes in the past, but it probably is best known for its work on the site of the World Trade Center in New York City after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.Before New York, an unpaid staff ran the task force with a $150,000 budget and equipment sometimes borrowed from members' firedepartments.In more recent years, its budget, funded by federal grants, has been closer to $1 million."Everyone back in Indianapolis should be proud of the asset we have inour community," said Brown, who assumed responsibility for the team twoyears ago.Brown wasn't part of the unit in New York. He was later brought in to leadthe team because of his expertise in planning and policy.The key to saving lives, Brown says, is a well-formed plan that fully spellsout everyone's responsibility. Each rescue crew, for example, gets maps of the areas they are assigned to search and the priorities for those areas.Russ Shoaf, 48, a task force member who has worked 24 years for the PikeTownship Fire Department, said the first 72 hours after any disaster arecritical for rescues, so organization is key.Other members of the team say that in addition to his thorough preparation,Brown manages to make every team member feel at home, whether theyare from a small agency or a big unit such as the Indianapolis FireDepartment.

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