Aerial water rescue crews ready for possible flooding

Texas Army National Guard Helicopter

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With more rain in the forecast, water rescue crews are on standby at Austin-Bergstrom Airport just in case places in Central Texas start to flood.

“We’ve basically got our aircraft ready, put the hoist on the aircraft and able to respond to any flood event where people are stranded,” said Robert Meischen, a pilot with the Texas National Guard. He flys a Lakota helicopter equipped with a hoist and space to rescue people. “It’s a waiting game, continuing to check the weather often.”

Texas Military Forces, like the National Guard, supply helicopters and pilots during state emergencies. They team up with the Texas Task Force 1, which is made up of rescue swimmers from across the state.

GOING IN-DEPTH // Texas Task Force 1

Texas Task Force 1 is the most deployed urban search and rescue team in the country.

Since its first deployment in 1998, the group has deployed to at least one major disaster every year.

The Task Force is made up of more than 500 people, including three 70-person search and rescue teams. It also has 300 people who specialize in water rescues.

The team is coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We get a mission request from our emergency operations center and they’ll send the request down to us,” said Meischen. “That’s when we’ll do a little pre-mission planning, head out and assess the situation and deploy a rescue swimmer.”

“First rescue comes on the hook; they’ll wench them outside. They’ll drop him down. He’ll pick up a victim,” said Scott Bartell as he described the hoist equipment on a Blackhawk helicopter. He is a member of Texas Task Force 1, but normally serves as an Austin firefighter who performs swift water rescues.

“It’s not that you want an opportunity,” said Bartell, “because when we go out somebody’s having a bad day, but that’s what we’re training for.”

The National Guard and Texas Task Force 1 saved five people Monday, including a 5-month-old girl from a home in North Texas.

“We’ve had rain for the last 4 or 5 days, everything is saturated and it only takes a little bit…and we have flooding,” said Bartell.

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