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Tallahassee Firefighters assist with search and rescue efforts in Surfside

Posted at 6:40 PM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-28 18:40:23-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Tallahassee Firefighters are just a few of the hundreds of first responders on the ground in Surfside, Fla. searching for those still missing.

This search and rescue effort is much more methodical than just moving the debris. That's why a group of trained firefighters and a structural engineer are in Surfside helping.

The Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 7 arrived at 2 a.m.

Twenty-seven Tallahassee firefighters and one structural engineer are now ready to do their part in locating people still missing after the Champlain South Tower Collapse. It's a process TFD Division Chief Mike Hadden likened the process to surgery.

The specially trained crew will be working from noon till midnight for the next seven days.

"If you peel back one layer, you have to reassess what you have. They also have to use mapping. When the building collapsed, most people were likely in their beds, so they're using mapping to work on those areas first," he said.

The team now using their skills to safely sift through the debris. They have special equipment that will make it easier to cut through concrete, cameras that can go through tight spaces, and listening devices.

"This is very fatiguing work, very physical, very strenuous. It could be difficult because of the emotion attached to it too," said Chief Hadden.

That's why TFD is also sending mental health experts, to give those first responders the chance to decompress after their 12 hour day. Apalachee Center CEO Jay Reeve says it's an important element to the response effort.

"This is crucial. The feeling like they're being heard, their pains, the hurt and sufferings being noticed. That it's not being just swept under the rug, but the people are paying attention," said Reeve.

Reeve says first responders could develop what's called "vicarious traumatization."

The Office for Victims of Crimes defines it as "an occupational challenge for people working and volunteering in the fields of victim services, law enforcement, emergency medical services, fire services, and other allied professions, due to their continuous exposure to victims of trauma and violence."

"That in itself can cause a few sleepless nights and can cause more than that can over time cause the development of greater susceptibility to anxiety into depression issues," said Reeve.

Reeve says it's not likely these types of responses turn into full-blown PTSD, but can have similar impacts.

TFD crews are working from noon until midnight for the next seven days. There's still a chance their expertise is needed past that time frame.