Ohio Task Force One has been put on alert to respond to the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti and should find out this week whether it will be deployed to the Island country to help with recovery operations.

Ohio Task Force One has been put on alert to respond to the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti and should find out this week whether it will be deployed to the Island country to help with recovery operations.

Six federal urban search and rescue task forces are in Haiti, with additional units in Texas and California also on alert.

Immediately after the earthquake, the Ohio task force was deployed to Wright Patterson AFB, where equipment was staged for loading into Air Force C-17 cargo planes and task force members were housed in base lodging. After several interim orders between Thursday and Sunday indicating that the task force would be deploying to Port-Au-Prince, the task force was finally released Sunday afternoon, said Upper Arlington Firefighter Dan Kochensparger, department spokesman.

Included among the 70-member Ohio task force are Upper Arlington Fire Chief Mitch Ross and Firefighter Dave Grumney, who traveled to Dayton Thursday. Ohio's task force remains on alert.

"There are 28 urban search and rescue task forces in the U.S.," Kochensparger said. "Two of them -- Los Angeles County, Calif., Task Force 2, and Fairfax County, Va., Task Force 1 -- are international task forces that have agreements with the State Department to assist in humanitarian missions to other countries. Those people are set up for both domestic and out of the country responses."

Every federal task force is organized into type 1 and type 3 structures of 70 and 28 people, respectively, Kochensparger said. (There is no type 2 task force.) In addition, each task force must maintain a roster of three persons for each position, or 210 people for Ohio Task Force One.

"It's analogous to the National Guard, where these people have jobs at hospitals, fire departments, structural engineering firms and so on, and they get called up every so often," Kochensparger said.

Since September 11, emergency response has worked very hard to integrate communications and standardize practices.

"Ever since 9/11, not only emergency services, but cities and even council members and elected officials are required to take National Incident Management System training if you want to be eligible for federal grants," Kochensparger said.

"Let's say a tornado hits Upper Arlington, you understand how the system works and who fits into what part (for the emergency response)."

Such coordination has solved problems such as references to general terms like "tankers," which in California means an aircraft fitted with water for forest fires, but in central Ohio means an ordinary water-bearing fire truck.

Federal search and rescue task forces are organized primarily around rescue squads which are then supported by several other units, including canine and technical search, medical, hazardous materials, logistics and planning.

The squads and positions are always divided into even numbers, so they can be easily organized into day and night shifts.

"When we deployed to the World Trade Center, they decided to do 12-hour shifts, so if you look at the task force, you'll see every position has a minimum of two, so you can split it down the middle and work a day shift and a night shift," Kochensparger said. "It doesn't have to be that way. Your entire task force might work a day shift while another task force might work the night shift, but it can work that way."

One of the big problems in responding to a widespread catastrophe is the raw material need of the population.

"It's a real logistic challenge that will drive what's going on," Kochensparger said. "The folks in the street there, we're talking basics, basics, basics, food, water and shelter stuff. It's similar to Katrina. You'll have groups coming up to you wanting that kind of supply, and that's tough, because you don't want to turn that down. But if you can't feed your rescuers, they might as well go home. What drives the response is the resupply situation."

Upper Arlington Police Lt. Paul Schaumburg said emergency response integration has improved greatly since 2001.

"If there is a train derailment in Grandview, and they need help from us in Columbus and Dublin and Hilliard and the National Guard, we can all show up and know what everybody is doing and be on the same page," Schaumburg said. "When we respond across jurisdictions we're all speaking the same language and we know how they're going to set up their command post and delegate authority to people."

Kochensparger said that the Ohio Task Force could be sent to Haiti this week to relieve currently activated units, depending upon need.

Resident's foundation raising funds for Haitian village

Long before last week's earthquake in Haiti, Pelege Lareus tried to bring awareness to the poverty and need in his native country.

Lareus, an Upper Arlington resident and Newark High School graduate, founded the Hand to Hand Foundation two years ago to support his village, Baie-du-Mesle, back in Haiti.

Baie-du-Mesle is in the southwest part of the country, west of Port-au-Prince, on the coast. Lareus, who moved to the United States when he was 13, has two sisters, a brother and other family members still living in Haiti. He said all are safe.

"Even before that, 17 years ago when I left Haiti in a boat, I always felt like the people in Haiti are misunderstood and need a helping hand," he said.

He said he formed the Hand to Hand Foundation to bring aid to the people of Baie-du-Mesle, and now they need more help than ever.

"They are not getting any aid," Lareus said. "There is no running water. My goal is to bring some light to them and give them a voice.

He said the First Congregational Church on East Broad Street is donating collections to the Hand to Hand Foundation, which is a registered nonprofit organization, and he is working on a fundraiser with an Upper Arlington teacher.

"I encourage people to donate to the organization of their choice," Lareus said. "We need to raise enough money to go down there. We need to do not just a one-time thing; we need to do it continuously."

For more information on the Hand to Hand Foundation for Haiti, visit the Web site at http://handtohandhaiti.com.