A four-member Coast Guard helicopter rescue team has been deployed from Air Station Cape Cod to Florida to help in Hurricane Ian search and rescue efforts.
Two pilots, a flight mechanic, and a rescue swimmer, was deployed to the west coast of Florida on Tuesday and began operations on Thursday, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod Lieutenant Commander Dan Reilly said.
“They got there around noon,” Reilly said Thursday evening. “And I believe today was the first time they got into a helicopter and got out into the neighborhoods on the west coast of Florida and started rendering aid to those in need in the area.”
The crew will be helping staff six H-60 and 3 C-130 helicopters that will be operating out of the West Palm Beach Airport, Reilly said. The helicopters were not deployed from Air Station Cape Cod.
It is difficult to conduct rescue operations in an urban environment because it involves relatively close to the ground in areas where there might be lots of trees, powerlines, buildings, and houses.
“So there’s a lot of obstructions that the crew has to ensure that we maintain safe operating distance from,” Reilly said, “and that takes all four members of [the] crew constantly calling out obstacles such that the pilots can then visually acquire them and then avoid them.
Still, the crews from Air Station Cape Cod have plenty of experience working in hurricane conditions and their aftermath, Reilly said.
“I would say the Air Station Cape Cod has responded to every hurricane for at least the last 10-years,” Reilly said.
There are two types of rescues the crews typically conduct, Reilly said.
One is a response to a 911 call, in which the team will go look for an address or location where people need help. That can be quite challenging to do from a helicopter, Reilly said, though the team has techniques. procedures, and tools to locate a home where someone needs help.
The helicopter would then land in the neighborhood, or in a nearby field or soccer stadium, and then the flight mechanic and rescue swimmer would go out and attempt to render aid, Reilly said.
“If the area’s completely flooded [and] we don’t have the ability to land, then we’ll hoist the rescue swimmer down to meet those people and hoist them individually, one by one, back up into the helicopter.”
Those who are rescued are usually brought to a triage center where they will receive first aid, food, water, and shelter, Reilly said.
The crew might also conduct a grid search of an area and look for people that are in distress, Reilly said. There is no specific timetable for how long the crew will be in Florida providing assistance.
“The Coast Guard’s going to be there for as long as the residents of Florida need us to be there,” Reilly said. “So if there’s folks in distress and that need rescuing, our crews will be down there [to] continue [to] provide that aid.”
Adam Sennott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.