Tennessee sends 150-member emergency team to help Carolinas with Florence aftermath

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) - A Hurricane Florence Relief Team from Murfreesboro, Rutherford and Wilson Counties is on the way to the Carolinas.  

Their mission will be providing swift-water rescues once the hurricane makes landfall.  

The team from Rutherford and Wilson Counties left Murfreesboro heading to Nashville to meet other TEMA team members, from there they headed to South Carolina.  

It was a prayer for safety.  

“We’re there to help and I’m thankful for that,” said Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue Captain Lee Douglas. “So, Lord, this time I pray that you blanket these men and women Father with your protection and strength.”  

A prayer for protection.  

“I pray for protection for their families here at home, Lord," Douglas said as team member stood in a circle praying.  

A swift-water rescue team made up of crews from Murfreesboro Fire, Rutherford County, Wilson County, and Lebanon Fire Department prepare to head to South Carolina to help once Hurricane Florence makes landfall.  

“That’s what we all train for, we don’t ever want it to happen, but we want to be there to help when it does happen,” said Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue Captain Joe Bell.  

This will be Bell’s first time to deploy to a disaster area, but he’s prepared for any situation.  

“We are going to have to make split-second judgments and decisions to make sure we come home to our families as well as trying to make sure those people go home to their families," Bell said.  

Rutherford County Fire Rescue Lieutenant Matthew Lupo is also ready to do his part.   

“It’s a good feeling I mean, I know there are going to be a lot of people that need up out there and I know we have a really good group of guys coming from all the departments,” Lupo said.“A lot of time there is no telling who you may get teamed up with or what they are coming from so there’s going to be agencies from all over the nation I would image sent there to help out.”  

Six members from Wilson County will also be heading to Fort McGrady in South Carolina, as part of this team, getting marching orders before mobilizing to the coastal area.  

“This is nothing new to us, nothing new to Rutherford County or Wilson County EMA.  We’ve been to Florida, Texas, Gatlinburg when they had fires and things of that nature,” Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Dowell said.  “This is one of those that we are getting in on the front in, so it might be some of the stuff new to us on the front end at least we’ll be able to go up there and help the Tennessee way.”  

The group left in a convoy bound for Nashville Wednesday morning to meet up with seven other critical and life-saving response teams, who will make the eight to 10-hour trip to South Carolina in advance of the potentially devastating storm.  

The team will be responsible for supporting emergency personnel with the aftermath of the Category 4 hurricane.   

This group will team up with a 103-member team from all over Tennessee who are well-trained in medical, water rescue and other emergency management services.  

The goal is to stay safe while helping others.  

“We just make sure that we hold accountability of them and they are using their training to the best of their ability and maintaining safety equipment at all times,” Murfreesboro Fire &Rescue Chief Mark Foulks said.  “The biggest ways we keep safe is, but that team accountability and that dynamic is the biggest way that we make sure we have everyone accounted for and that we are operating as a team.”  

“We send these guys to South Carolina, they are going to get some experience and training that’s going to make them better in what they do by the experience of being out there, being able to do what they do, do what they train to do,” said Rutherford County Fire Rescue Chief Larry Farley.  “In a live situation like that, that’s training you can’t pay for.”  

The group took along all the equipment they’ll need including a sustainment trailer that's equipped with air condition and heat and can be used as shelter, a place to sleep and keep personal belongings.    

They took several swift water boats with motors, rafts, and dry suits.  

The Tennessee Team is expected to help with Hurricane Florence relief anywhere from seven to 14 days, depending on how long they are needed. 

Here's more information about rescue teams and other units from Tennessee: 

Tennessee’s swift-water rescue teams will stage in Columbia, South Carolina for a week, and possibly longer. According to TEMA Director Patrick Sheehan, their mission is to save hurricane survivors from fast-moving or fast-rising flood water.  They have specialized training in dangerous water rescue operations. Here are the teams: 

  • City of Atoka Fire
  • City of Brentwood Fire
  • City of Franklin Fire
  • City of Franklin Police
  • City of Gatlinburg Fire
  • City of Germantown Fire
  • City of Hendersonville Fire
  • City of Knoxville Fire
  • City of Lebanon Fire
  • City of Millington
  • City of Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue
  • City of Pigeon Forge Fire
  • City of Sevierville Fire
  • Metro Nashville Fire
  • Metro Nashville Police
  • Rutherford County Fire & Rescue
  • Shelby County Fire
  • Williamson County Emergency Management Agency
  • Williamson County Sheriff’s Office
  • Wilson County Emergency Management Agency

Nurse strike teams from local and regional health departments are headed to North Carolina. Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyszehner says the health care teams are coming from Benton, Bedford, Decatur, Gibson, Henry, Knox, Lawrence, Madison, Morgan, Overton, Putnam, Weakley and White counties. They are expected to be in North Carolina for up to 7 days

Four Communications specialists from Rutherford County, the Tennessee Advanced Communications Network and TEMA are heading to North Carolina with equipment to improve emergency communications.

An ambulance strike team of 23 medics is coming from Benton, Cheatham, Henderson, McNairy, Madison, Robertson, Sumner, Williamson, Wilson Counties and Metro Nashville. They left Tuesday to help move patients before Hurricane Florence makes landfall. In addition, two ambulance bus teams with 7 people went to South Carolina on Monday to help evacuate health care facilities in Myrtle Beach and Charleston. 

TEMA is sending 7 staffers to the Carolinas to help with logistics and communications. 

Click here for complete coverage of Hurricane Florence


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