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COLUMBIA – The total number of Missouri Task Force 1 members deployed to Florida has risen to 52.

Missouri Task Force 1 deployed 45 members on Friday afternoon. Four more were activated Saturday, according to a Boone County Fire Protection District Facebook post. Among them are a situation unit leader, structure specialist, safety officer and field observer. 

The deployment comes ahead of Hurricane Dorian’s predicted landfall over Labor Day weekend.

MO-TF1 will deploy as a Type III task force with an emphasis on water rescue capabilities for the next two weeks.

"All of our rescue specialist on this mission are either boat operators or swift water rescue technicians. So, we have the capabilities to work in the water, that's what we anticipate doing," said the Task Force Assistant Chief Gale Blomenkamp.

MO-TF1 will be joined by TX-TF1, NY-TF1, and MA-TF1, all as Type III teams. A total of 8 Type I teams will be deploying, as well as four Mission Ready Package Water Rescues from across the United States.

Earlier Friday, FEMA put task forces from around the country on alert. That happens whenever they might needed to respond to an emergency.

Going on alert is one of the early stages of preparation before being activated.

“We basically prepare to be ready to go out the door within four hours,” Boone County Fire Protection District Captain Martina Pounds said.

Once put on alert the task force will start to keep track of how the event unfolds.

Most alert stage preparation involves making sure the task force has enough supplies, batteries are charged and equipment has been rehabbed.

But the stage’s main purpose is to prepare task force personnel for deployment.

“People get rostered so they know in an event of activation they would be ready to go,” Pounds said.

Missouri Task Force 1 is always ready to respond to a disaster. But preparation for its next response begin when the task force returns from its previous deployment.

“As soon as we get back from a disaster we rehab everything and get ready to go out again,” Pounds said. “Then we inform FEMA we can be back on the roster.”

Preparation time for the next deployment can vary and depends on what type of disaster the task force responded to in its previous operation.

Pounds said that the least amount of time the task force has had between deployments was a couple of weeks and the task force can be ready to go between activations in one week’s time.

Preparing for deployments extend beyond charging batteries and maintaining equipment. The task force ensures its personnel are refreshed and ready to respond to the next event through a rotation.

The task force has three people per position on staff and no one is deployed in back-to-back operations unless they choose to do so.

“It’s very unlikely that somebody comes home from a two-to-three week deployment, has to rehab and has to go back out,” Pounds said.

“Can they do that? They could,” she continued. “But that is usually up to the [person] and to their families.”

Joining Missouri Task Force 1 can be a competitive process.

Missouri Task Force 1 never has to recruit personnel and openings are spread by “word of mouth” according to Pounds.

“We don’t actively have to recruit,” Pounds said. “We get plenty of applications.”

However, those who want to apply to become a member of the task force can do so on Missouri Task Force 1’s website.

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