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TFD equipped with specialized unit for search and rescue missions

Posted at 7:24 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 19:24:37-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The Tallahassee Fire Department has a specialized unit to help with structure collapses, like the one in Surfside, Fla. Thursday morning.

Allen Willis, Captain of Special Operations at TFD & Chairman for Florida Association of Search and rescue on behalf of the Florida Fire Chiefs Association, said they're called Florida Task Force 7, which is TFD's Special Operations Urban Search and rescue team.

They were established in 2004 because of what happened on 9/11 at the world trade center.

"That's kind of the backbone of Urban search and rescue is a structural collapse," Capt. Willis said.

They train for situations that include confined spaces, rope and trench rescues.

His team can be deployed across the state, but mainly work for the 13 counties in the big bend.

Willis said they handle mostly hurricane-related collapses in our region.

"The primary concern like with any tragic event like that is getting the people that are out, walking and wounded to a safe location," Willis said.

Then, he says they start looking for trapped victims using K9s and visual technology that act as search cams.

"Kind of like a borescope is what I'd compare it to," Willis said. "Then, you call out on the rumble pile and ask someone to move or call out then return your reply we would be able to use the equipment to triangulate their location and try to find them. Then we would use heavy equipment to move the debris and rescue them."

Willis said some of the best teams of men and women are working right now to find the victims of the Surfside apartment building collapse.