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Ohioans head south to help during Hurricane Ian

As the Gulf Coast of Florida braces for the impacts of Hurricane Ian, Ohioans are preparing to help.

BEDFORD, Ohio — As lines for gas stretch through Florida streets, and some grocery stores through the Sunshine State run low on essential supplies ahead of Hurricane Ian making landfall, Ohioans are loading up and heading south in order to help.   

Brian Harting is a lieutenant with the Bedford Fire Department, but currently, he’s serving as heavy equipment rigging specialist with Ohio Task Force One, one of 28 task forces through the National Urban Search & Rescue Response System and FEMA.

Right now, 47 Ohioans with the team are currently deployed to provide resources and support during Hurricane Ian, staging in southeast Alabama as they wait to learn where they’ll be most needed. They got the call they would be heading south on Saturday.

“It’s just something we train for,” said Harting, adding the team trains constantly in Dayton. “[I'm] just glad we can help and represent the state of Ohio and our communities back home and offer some assistance.”

Task force leader Jack Reall described the team as a “Swiss army knife of the federal government.” Reall said their team is equipped with multiple semi trucks, box trucks, boats, and other supplies to ensure they’re ready to respond.

“We can do anything from building collapse rescue right now to confined space rescue to swift water rescue, we’re pretty well set up for almost anything that can happen in a hazardous environment,” Reall said.

The American Red Cross is also looking for ways to help. Jim McIntyre, regional communications director for The American Red Cross of Northern Ohio, said they are reaching out to their network of volunteers.

“We currently have one volunteer from Canton who has been deployed to Florida and is ready to work in shelters,” McIntyre said. “We also have the need for other volunteers, and have put the call out to our volunteers to find out who among them are available to work for a couple of weeks in the next few days.”

McIntyre said generally, disaster deployment is an 11-14 day commitment. Their volunteers are trained to help in shelter settings, distribute food, as well as provide mental health counseling in response to disasters and disaster assessment.

Additionally, McIntyre said they are always looking for people who would like to undergo the training to become a volunteer to address future disasters, and said The American Red Cross relies on donations from the community.

Harting said he and the rest of the team members with Ohio Task Force One are ready and eager to help.

"We all come together and want to do this and want to help out wherever that need is, and wherever that action is,” he said. “We're willing to face it head on and help those in need that need it the most."

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