Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rescuers to Be First Responders; Jacksonville Beach Unit Gets Training Grant

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rescuers to Be First Responders; Jacksonville Beach Unit Gets Training Grant

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher F. Aguilar, Shorelines staff writer

The Jacksonville Beach Fire Department will become one of 67 Florida fire departments to have a specialized rescue team that can respond to such emergencies as building collapses and terrorism.

"These first responders have the greatest likelihood of saving a life," said Dave Halstead, a Florida Division of Emergency Management analyst. "Jacksonville Beach stepped up to the plate and said they had the personnel and willingness to have a team."

The state will train 18 members of the Jacksonville Beach Fire Department in several skills including heavy industrial and vehicle extrication, rope rescue in confined spaces and excavation. The department will also get about $18,000 worth of equipment funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Jacksonville Beach City Council must still approve the grant agreement with the state.

Once they are trained, the Fire Department personnel will be designated a Type 4 Urban Search and Rescue Light Technical Response Team. The rescue team would then be responsible for responding with six team members within one hour to any area within the Beaches and Ponte Vedra Beach for emergencies caused by natural disasters, building collapses or terrorism.

At least one such team was selected for each Florida county, Halstead said.

"What we found was that we needed a small search and rescue team in geographically diverse areas," he said. "They needed basic equipment and training so they could assist lightly trapped people. In case of an explosion or collapse, they would get people out in outer areas and still be safe."

Fire Chief Gary Frazier said his department was interested in having a team and was selected based on input from the Regional Domestic Security Task Force, which oversees security preparedness across the state.

"It's an honor to be chosen," Frazier said. "They chose us mainly because we are at the beach. …

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