Vermont Rescue Team Returns From Texas After Assisting In Harvey Recovery

Sep 12, 2017

A team of first responders trained in water rescues has returned to Vermont from a deployment to Texas where they assisted with searches in areas hit by Hurricane Harvey.

The team was stationed in rural Orange County, Texas, near the border with Louisiana. They were welcomed back to Vermont Tuesday by Gov. Phil Scott and other state officials at an event in Waterbury.

The rescue team's leader, Michael Cannon, says 90 percent of Orange County was covered by floodwaters.

"Our task was to conduct primary searches in areas where the county believed searches might not have been done, or done in an adequate manner ... So we were just their confirmation on 'everybody's OK, these people are unaccounted for, or this is what we found,'" Cannon says.

The 15-member team, known as Task Force 1 Swift Water Rescue, was in Texas for a week, assisting with searches in flooded areas.

"There's homes that still had water up to the roof in some places," says Mark Brown, a member of Vermont Task Force 1. "They [the residents] were resilient. They were smiling, they were patting each other on the back and helping us with whatever we needed."

"I think this was a great way for the state of Vermont to try to return that generosity and show that we're able to send you some resources" - Michael Cannon, Vermont Task Force 1 team leader
Mark Brown, a member of Vermont Task Force 1, speaks to the media in Waterbury on Tuesday.
Credit Henry Epp / VPR

The Vermont Task Force responded to Harvey under an agreement known as the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. After Tropical Storm Irene hit the Green Mountain State in 2011, out-of-state responders came to Vermont under the same compact. Responding to Harvey is a way of paying that work forward, according to Cannon.

"I think this was a great way for the state of Vermont to try to return that generosity and show that we're able to send you some resources," Cannon says.

Parts of Florida and the Caribbean are now picking up the pieces after Hurricane Irma. As of now, the Vermont Task Force 1 has not been called to respond.

"I can tell you every member on this team is ready to go again," Brown says. "We're ready, so if we're called, we'll definitely be going."

Listen above to an extended conversation with Michael Cannon. 

Correction 9/13/2017 6:59 a.m.: An error in a previous version of the post mentioned an extended conversation with a Mark Cannon. It's been corrected to reflect that the extended conversation is with Michael Cannon.