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New York task force heads to North Carolina for Hurricane Florence relief

Members of New York Task Force One prepare

Members of New York Task Force One prepare to deploy from Brooklyn on Tuesday. Credit: NYC Emergency Management

A task force of New Yorkers, including members of the FDNY and NYPD, has arrived in North Carolina in support of Hurricane Florence relief efforts.

On Tuesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency activated the city Office of Emergency Management’s Urban Search & Rescue New York Task Force One, a team of 83 people and six canines.

The team left the office’s Brooklyn facility to head to Kinston, North Carolina. Among their supplies: eight water rescue boats, motors, items to support rescues of collapsed and confined structures, and hazardous-materials equipment.

The team arrived safely Tuesday night in North Carolina, an emergency management spokesman said.

Joe Downey, an FDNY battalion chief who lives in West Islip, is a leader with the task force, a team that is water-trained and capable of operating a boat, he said.

“Many of them have been out the door a couple of times now,” Downey said at a morning news conference in Brooklyn before their departure. “And they’re looking forward to getting down there.”

Downey said the group would be pre-positioned when they arrive and was prepared to work on North Carolina’s shore, or inland.

“I know our past deployments, everybody thinks that they’re going to get hit along the shore and it seems like we’ve been doing most of our work inland,” Downey said. “The rivers overflow or the streams overflow in these areas and that’s where we’re doing most of our work.”

Westhampton-based New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing has not yet been tasked in aid efforts for Florence, but that could change, said Eric Durr, director of public affairs for the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs.

A Nassau County police department spokesman said he was not aware of any plans to dispatch NCPD teams to aid in the Florence efforts. A spokeswoman for Suffolk County police said the department had not been requested and was not sending anyone.

A spokeswoman for PSEG Long Island said the utility company had not been asked for crews. “We continue to monitor the progress of the storm and are in close contact with the North Atlantic Mutual Assistance Group,” said spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler.

There are 28 such FEMA teams located throughout the country that can be deployed within six hours, the emergency management office said in a news release.

The FEMA program responded to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. New York Task Force One deployments have included for Hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008, the Haiti earthquake and Hurricane Earl in 2010, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria last year.

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story misspelled PSEG Long Island spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler's name.

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