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Regional specialized response team helps with flood response

In December 2015, members of the Kansas City region’s technical rescue teams were deployed to southwest Missouri to help respond to flooding emergencies. Team members were able to put their specialized training and equipment to good use in dangerous water conditions, helping to save seven lives.

The Regional Homeland Security Coordinating Committee has established specialty teams for technical rescue, hazmat, explosive ordinance disposal, tactical response and mortuary operations. Team members for each specialty are made up of emergency response professionals who train together using the same equipment and stand ready to respond to emergencies across the Kansas City region and beyond.

“We were deployed to the Joplin area Sunday afternoon,” said Battalion Chief Larry Young, Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department. “We took two boat crews from KCFD and one from Central Jackson County, and three Zodiac boats.”

Upon their arrival on Sunday, Dec. 27, Young’s crew was assigned to a staging area in Neosho. They got their equipment ready, established communications with the emergency operations center and area emergency managers, and provided relief so that local crews could get some rest.

At sunrise on Monday, the team received a call from the Missouri Highway Patrol asking for assistance with a rescue on the Spring River in Jasper County. A semi-truck was stranded in rushing water with the driver still in the truck. The local water patrol was unable to reach the truck, but two of the Kansas City area boat crews were able to navigate their Zodiac boats through swift water with many obstacles to rescue the driver.

Shortly afterward, the crew was called to a two-story house near the Spring River where six people were stranded on the upper floor as floodwaters swept through the lower level. The team talked with local authorities and farmers that were familiar with the area to establish the best route to the house, which could only be reached by crossing two separate bodies of water in 20-30 mph winds with wind chills in the teens and driving sleet and snow. All six people were rescued and transported to safety in the Zodiac boats.

“Without help from the MARC region, people in that area of the state would have been in big trouble,” said Young. “Our crews were able to effect rescues with a high level of difficulty in a very professional and disciplined manner. The support of the RHSCC was instrumental in saving these seven lives.”