Two hope to join rescue task force

Two Columbus firefighters hope to be selected for a special search and rescue task force.

The Columbus Board of Works approved a memorandum of agreement Tuesday between the city of Columbus and the city of Indianapolis, through the Indianapolis Fire Department regarding participation in Indiana Task Force 1. Local firefighters Jarrad Mullis and Marcus Gruner are candidates for this task force, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.

If they are selected, they will have to go through specific training, said Columbus Fire Department Deputy Chief Mike Kutsko.

“I think this is going to benefit a large group of people, not only the task force for getting some excellent candidates from Columbus, but the Columbus area,” he said. “… They’ve already brought back some of that training and have shared it with the Columbus Fire Department.”

Kutsko said the search and rescue tactics may have come into play during a June 17 rescue of a disabled woman from a residential fire, for which firefighters and emergency services personnel were awarded Medals of Valor and Courage earlier in the meeting.

Indiana Task Force 1 is part of the National Urban Search & Rescue Response System established by FEMA. The task force is prepared to respond to any natural or human-created disaster 24 hours a day, handling all hazards from local search and rescue to national large scale-incidents, according to Indianapolis officials.

The team was deployed during 9/11, as well as during various hurricanes.

The team describes itself as “comprised of emergency responders from various professional backgrounds across the state.”

“Columbus Fire would be our 34th participating agency,” said Division Chief Tom Neal with Indiana Task Force 1. “We actually range from Columbus Fire all the way to South Bend, Indiana. So the major concentration of our participating agencies are, of course, in Central Indiana, around the surrounding counties of Marion County and the city of Indianapolis.”

He said that the task force pre-rosters a team each month and sends the roster out to participating agencies ahead of time, so they’re aware of which personnel are on the list.

Depending on what a specific situation calls for, Indiana Task Force 1 can send in a large “Type 1 heavy rescue” team, or deploy smaller resources, such as Type 3 units.

While the team is a federal resource, they can also serve in the event of disasters within the state.

“For instance, right now, that collapse in Surfside, Florida, Florida One and Two are federal assets, but they’re being utilized as a state resource,” Neal said. “And that’s the same that we would be here in the state. If the state had an emergency that they would need search and rescue resources, then we could be used as a state resource first, prior to becoming committed to a federal resource.”

In such an event, they would send out an alert to team members and participating agency heads that the team has been activated, so that if those individuals are on duty, they can be taken off duty and their positions can be back-filled.

Neal added that neither FEMA or the task force want any city to be short on personnel, so they will cover the cost of back-filling individuals.

“We’re pretty proud of our fire department, and as you saw here just a few moments ago, they’re a pretty professional group,” said Mayor Jim Lienhoop. “So we’re happy to share and hope that it makes your organization better as well as ours.”