First responders to aid Florida during, after Hurricane Irma

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As thousands in Florida brace for Hurricane Irma, metro area first responders packed up and headed into the storm's path.

The powerful wind and water that swept through the Florida Keys Sunday morning are only expected to get worse as the storm moves North, and these first responders from seven different agencies within the East Baton Rouge Urban Search and Rescue team will be there to answer the call of duty.

"I've had a calling to help people and serve my community in the military and Baton Rouge Fire Department. It's just something that's in my heart," said Trent Willard with the BR Fire Department.

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome announced Saturday that East Baton Rouge Parish first responders will deploy to Florida on Sunday morning to assist agencies during and after Hurricane Irma.

"Being able to physically assist on the ground is extremely important; we are more than willing to provide whatever we can. We know the effects of storms, and we also know the greatness of people's generosity and care from all over this great country," said Mayor-President Broome.

Jody Chandler is an EMS paramedic with 20 years of experience. He said working in a storm of this magnitude requires swift water rescuers to go back to the basics.

The rescuer said saving families during their worst of times can be a mental battle as well as a physical one.

"The biggest thing is just trying to keep the chaos down and just making sure that we can help someone the best we can," Chandler said.

Not only did the emergency crews leave with gear that will allow them to tackle any situation, they brought along Gemma, a live search dog. She's been trained to locate people trapped in houses using her sense of smell and then bark to alert the rescuers.

"She'll bark a couple of times and let me know and we're going to hook her back up and get those people out," said

This is the second time the Task Force 2 crew has assisted in storm relief. About two weeks ago a team traveled to Texas to help with search and rescue effort following Hurricane Harvey.

The crew of about two dozen is expected to be in the Tallahassee, Florida area for about two weeks, but they'll stay as long as they're needed.

Member agencies leaving Sunday included:

  • Baker Fire Department
  • Baton Rouge Fire Department
  • East Baton Rouge EMS
  • Eastside Fire Department
  • West Baton Rouge Fire Department
  • West Feliciana Fire Department
  • Zachary Fire Department

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