A Massachusetts search-and-rescue team has been deployed in the Southeastern United States to help with whatever Hurricane Florence may bring.
Tom Gatzunis is one of 46 volunteer members of the Massachusetts Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team, or MA-TF 1, who were on their way to Virginia Tuesday afternoon.
Gatzunis said the Beverly-based team is one of 28 such task forces across the country and is made up of volunteers from all over New England. He described the crew as a “highly trained team” that includes police, firefighters, civilians, doctors, and a veterinarian. They range in age from their 20s to their 60s, he said.
Gatzunis, 57, of Marlborough, is a former state commissioner of public safety who works as a project manager for Daedalus Projects Inc.. He has served on the task force for nine years.
Gatzunis said the team got its orders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Monday night. They left Beverly Tuesday morning and were traveling in a convoy of approximately 14 vehicles.
“We are heading to Virginia for staging,” he said, “and then we will be further deployed from there.”
Gatzunis said he couldn’t provide details about the mission, but when the team arrives it will be ready to help. “We have capabilities for swift water, collapsed structures . . . literally it’s whatever the task at hand is,” he said.
Gatzunis said the length of the deployment will depend on the situation. The volunteers could be down South for up to two weeks.
“As a member of this team, we pray that we never get the call because that means someone is in distress or in trouble,” Gatzunis said. “But when that need does arise, we want to be the first to get there.”
The MA-TF 1 team was among the first to be deployed to the World Trade Center disaster site in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. More recently, it was activated to help out in Houston and Puerto Rico after last year’s hurricanes.Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.