COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As Floridians continue to prepare for Hurricane Ian, dozens of members of Ohio’s Task Force 1 are already en route.
Jack Reall’s first mission with Ohio Task Force 1 was 21 years ago after the attacks on 9/11. His group has since responded to massive floods, a building collapse, and countless tornadoes and hurricanes.
“I don’t think you can really explain what this looks like to somebody who hasn’t been in a hurricane or tornado before. It’s unbelievable,” said Reall, the task force leader.
And hurricane season has become a regular date on his calendar.
“My wife mentioned to me before I left that five of the last six years, this week, I’ve been out on a hurricane deployment. So, it’s pretty regular,” Reall said.
FEMA has once again deployed Reall and 46 other members of Task Force 1 ahead of tropical storm Ian.
“Any Category 1 or higher hurricane that’s going to make landfall, they pre-deploy teams in place. Now we’re in southeast Alabama waiting for further instructions.”
Ian is projected to make landfall as a hurricane on Thursday night, into Friday morning. This means Reall and his team will spend the next few days evaluating equipment and getting acclimated to the area.
“We’re going to do a little bit of water safety training for our non-rescue people, because we’re going to expect to be in floods and stuff like that,” Reall said. “So, just some kind of refresher stuff to get prepared as we go further in.”
He anticipates one of the biggest challenges will be the climate.
“I’m not a big fan of the heat, but I’ve got to acclimate myself so that I can function down here when that time is needed,” Reall said.
For team members who have responded to countless disasters, each mission is still emotional.
“We’re going to be the first people they’re going to see a lot of times that are out there to help them, but we’re not the last.”
The team brings Ohio’s commitment to service wherever they go.
“We can’t do this alone and a lot of our communities provide our responders, that gives them the time to come and participate in this effort. And it really shows well for Ohio, and we’re proud to wear the Ohio flag when we’re out here,” Reall said.
How long the deployment lasts is still to be seen. Reall said he plans for about 10 days after the storm makes landfall. In the meantime, the team will Facetime families as much as possible.