The main mission of the deployment of the Upper Scioto Water Rescue Task Force to North Carolina on Sept. 12 was to assist communities deluged by rain and wind from Hurricane Florence.
But the experience will pay dividends locally if needed, said Marysville Chief Jay Riley, who serves as leader of the task force.
Fifty-two first responders from the Marysville and Jackson, Concord, Liberty, Norwich and Washington township fire departments participate in the task force.
Sixteen members from all the departments except Concord were part of the deployment from Sept. 12-20 in North Carolina, including Jackson Township Fire Lt. Bob Schneider and firefighter/paramedics Jamie Irwin and Carl Ryan.
The idea for forming the task force arose after firefighters from the six departments were asked to respond to hurricane relief efforts in Texas, Riley said.
"We just weren't prepared to go," he said. "In conversations among the chiefs from the six departments, we decided we could pool together and share our resources and equipment and undergo the training we needed so we could respond when asked. We focused our efforts on getting ready for this year's hurricane season."
And when the 16 task force members were called to North Carolina, they were ready.
"To me, the most satisfying thing was seeing the 16 task force members from various departments working together and communicating as a team," Ryan said.
"The training we went through together paid off when we were actually deployed."
"In our regular duty, personnel from Jackson Township don't have much a chance to interact with someone from Marysville," Riley said. "We're ready to respond when a hurricane or flood occurs out of state, but our main concern is our hometowns and our home state. If something happens here, we will be able to respond as a unit to help assist each other."
Just a few weeks before its deployment to North Carolina, the task force attained the necessary training and certification to quality as a Federal Emergency Management Agency Type 1 swift water/flood search-and-rescue team within the National Incident Management System.
"It's the highest ranking you can have, and it means we are available to be deployed when FEMA makes a request," Riley said.
The Upper Scioto group spent most of its time in North Carolina inland and away from the coastal areas.
"It was amazing even inland how much rain was falling and the amount of flooding we saw," Irwin said. "It was devastating."
The task force was assigned to duty in Benson in Johnston County and Laurinburg in Scotland County.
"Most of our effort involved helping with rescue of people who become stuck in their cars when the flood waters rose and decimated roadways," Riley said.
"The hurricane stalled and there was just continuous rainfall that washed roads away," Schneider said.
The task force also assisted with helping residents trapped in their homes by flood water, he said.
"There was nothing too dramatic, really, but it was just the satisfaction of helping people in need," Schneider said.
"Firefighters don't want to have to respond to a disaster, but we want to be ready if we do."
Ryan said it was an "incredible experience" working with firefighters from a other states, including New Hampshire, California and Missouri.
"It's a real brotherhood of firefighters," he said.
The appreciation of local first responders and residents was striking, Irwin said.
"We were treated with such kindness. People were so grateful to see us. We were getting thanks and thumbs-up everywhere we went," he said.
"The Benson fire department basically told us, 'This is your (fire)house now.' "
Riley said he was pleased overall with the task force's performance.
"There are always some things to work on," he said. "I think there were some small issues regarding communication and logistics we'll be looking at, but our first deployment showed we were well-trained and prepared."
The task force could be expanding because fire departments from other communities have expressed interest in joining, Riley said.