Three firefighters and one healthcare worker from Berkeley have flown to the South to aid in the rescue and care of victims of Hurricane Katrina.
A second healthcare worker, a specialist in treating stress in rescue personnel, is scheduled to leave in two weeks.
Firefighter Dave McPartland, an expert in swift water rescue, was the first to go. He left for New Orleans Tuesday, said Deputy Fire Chief David Orth.
Lt. Darren Bobrosky, the head of the department’s Rescue Dog Program, was sent to Mississippi Wednesday as a rescue dog team leader. Accompanying him was Firefighter David Sprague, who will serve as the team’s information systems specialist.
“He’ll be starting up a website for sharing information,” Orth said.
They are members of Urban Search and Rescue Team Task Force 4, a program sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, Orth said.
The team includes participants from the county, city departments, the Lawrence Livermore Lab and the state parks system. Of 28 such teams nationally, eight are based in California.
Also leaving Wednesday were two members of the Disaster Medical Aid Team (DMAT).
One of them, Barbara Morita, is a familiar face at Berkeley High School’s health center. As public health nurse, she will be providing assistance to both rescuers and the rescued.
The final member of the contingent is David Wee, a licensed clinical social worker and head of the city’s Mobile Mental Health Team. He is a nationally recognized leader in the field of stress debriefing, Orth said. Wee will leave in the coming weeks to handle the effects of the disaster on the rescue workers themselves.
“His specialty is called critical incident stress management,” said Orth. Wee assists city firefighters and police with on-the-job traumas.
Wee will contact rescuers, learn how they fell about what they’ve seen and done, arrange group meetings and arrange individual debriefings as needed with peer counselors and mental health professionals.
Alameda County currently maintains three identical search and rescue teams of 64 members each.
“Currently, the Red Team was deployable,” Orth said. “The second team helped them get out the door and on their way, and the third team provides fill-in people if any members of the Red Team happen to be on vacation or ill.”
A team includes a contingent of rescue specialists, including an acoustic expert to help locate people in collapsed and damaged building, a rigger to set up equipment to lift concrete and sections of collapsed structures to rescue people buried beneath, water rescue specialists and a dog component for locating victims.
Orth said normal deployments are for a maximum of 10 days, and he expects that the group’s tour this time will last about a week as more teams are rotated through the disaster areas.
The search and rescue teams are composed of sworn fire and police personnel, while the DMAT teams are drawn from the civilian sector, Orth added.›