Texas is lending a helping hand to our neighbors who are dealing with the aftermath of deadly storms.  A 77-member team from Texas Task Force One left early Monday for Arkansas, where they will assist in search, rescue and recovery efforts for the weekend tornadoes that swept through the Little Rock area.  So far, the storms have resulted in at least 15 deaths, dozens of injuries, and massive property damage.  Texas Task Force One is an elite response team based in College Station that includes firefighters, medical personnel, and structural engineers.  TTF1 is deployed by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and FEMA in response to emergencies and natural disasters nationwide, and has been deployed over 90 times since it was formed in 1997.

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TTF spokesman Will Welch tells KTRH the team plays a vital role.  "The task force is there to support and relieve those local responders, to give them another tool in the toolbox," he says.  "So the local incident commander can use them where needed, like searching wide geographic areas or with heavy rescue."  The team can also provide medical support or even water rescues if necessary, but in this case standard search-and-rescue will likely be their primary task.  "They'll be tasked with a particular area, they'll search that for signs of life or survivors," says Welch.  "Whatever they're asked to find, they'll provide that intelligence back to incident command."

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As for the TTF's tools and methods, Welch says they are fully loaded.  "They have technical search devices like listening devices and cameras, and they also have canine search assets, which is still the fastest and best way to search a large geographic area."  The team also includes 12 members from the Houston Fire Department--nine from the HFD Rescue Team, two from the Haz-Mat team, and a district chief.  "The state of Texas can be proud that we have an asset like this available to us and to others across the United States," says Welch.  "This is a fantastic group of people who are highly trained and very, very motivated to do a great job."