Hurricane Michael: Ohio Task Force 1 team sends 3 K-9s to help efforts in Florida

UPDATE @ 10:52 p.m.:

News Center 7 Reporter James Buechele was with the three K-9 handlers and their K-9s in Kettering before they headed to perform recovery work with the OH-TF1 team in Florida Sunday night.

Sunny, Hunter and Murphy are recovery dogs trained to detect human remains and are also able to search for live victims, said Phil Sinewe, Public Information Officer for Ohio Task Force 1.

The work shifts for the dogs will vary, but they will typically work a 12-hour shift during the day. The K-9s will stop at night unless there is reason to believe a live victim may be in the area, said Sinewe.

Dogs searching for live victims can often work 24-hour shifts because time is so critical, said K-9 handler Melissa Morgan of Corinth, Kentucky.

“These K-9s are really a critical part of the search at this point,” said Sinewe. “Somebody has to figure out what’s in these debris piles before we start digging.”

Each dog has an initial training of at least two years, said K-9 handler Nick Fathergill of Centerville.

“We’re always in a state of readiness because we can be sent out the door anytime,” said Fathergill.

The OH-TF1 16-member water team has done wide area searches to look for any victims from the storm the last three days, Sinewe said.

Areas along the coast are “wiped flat” with a lot of debris piles, Sinewe said.

The team is currently in Jackson County searching and determining damage.

“I think we all get into this because we wanted to provide a service for the families and communities that are affected by disasters,” K-9 handler Deana Hudgens of Wooster, Ohio said.

UPDATE @ 2:10 p.m. (Oct. 14):

The OH-TF1 team is sending three K-9 handlers and their K-9s to Florida from Kettering Sunday night at 9:00 p.m.

OH-TF1 crews continue with ground search efforts, however, to support those efforts, they received a request for additional resources, according to a release.

The three K-9s are Human Remains Detection (HRD) dogs and are certified both federally and with local and state entities.

The three handlers deploying are from Dayton and Wooster, Ohio and Corinth, Kentucky.

UPDATE @ 10:15 p.m. (Oct. 13):

The Ohio Task Force 1 (OH-TF1) Water Rescue Team joined up with the Texas Task Force 1 (TXTF1) team for ground search work in Callaway, Florida, near Panama City on Friday, Oct. 12, according to a release. OH-TF1 Leader Doug Coupe reported those efforts included primary searches of 800 to 1,000 structures.

The team expects today, Oct. 13, to be a repeat of community and structure searches as more areas are identified for searching, read the release.

In addition to the 16-member team, three additional members are deployed with the Incident Support Team, working out of the Pensacola area.

OH-TF1 Public Information Officer Phil Sinewe stated, “As expected, our team is directly engaged in providing search and rescue services to the effected communities. Ohioans should be proud of Ohio Task Force 1 and the team members, both deployed and back at home for the capabilities of the team to provide services in times of need, literally at a moment’s notice. It is truly a group effort that produces quality rescue services.”

UPDATE@6:35 p.m. (Oct. 12): 

Members of the Ohio Task Force 1 Water Rescue Team that’s helping with the Hurricane Michael recovery safely traveled to Panama City Beach on Thursday, according to the group’s Facebook page.

The 16-member team performed some wide-area searches yesterday in the area, and expect to do more searches today.

All members of the team are safe and in good spirits, the Facebook message said, adding that they have limited communication.

UPDATE @ 12 p.m.: The Ohio Task Force 1 Water Rescue Team has entered Florida and is now headed to Panama City Beach.

Initially the 16-member team was heading to Panama City, but they reportedly received a change in orders Thursday morning.

UPDATE @ 7:30 a.m. (Oct. 11): The 16-member Ohio Task Force 1 Water Rescue Team left Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama at 7 a.m. and are headed for Panama City.

They will be moving with Indiana Task Force 1 and Virginia Task Force 1 as a group.

In addition to the 16 member team working in Florida, three additional members are deployed with the Incident Support Team as staff, working out of the Pensacola area.

Specific plans beyond this move are still pending with evaluation being made by the State of Florida.

UPDATE @ 11:06 a.m. (Oct. 10):

The 16-member Ohio Task Force 1 Team initially sent to Florida ahead of Hurricane Michael has been rerouted to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, according to a spokesman.

>> Hurricane Michael: ‘Monstrous storm’ strengthens, continues toward eastern Gulf Coast

“The current plan is for the team to hold in-place until the storm's major impact has started to move inland. Those plans, of course are fluid and the team is ready and able to move at any moment's notice,” a statement read.

Last night, the team did some preparation work to boats and other gear.

UPDATE @ 8:15 a.m. (Oct. 9): 

The 16-member Ohio Task Force 1 Team, activated Monday ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Michael, left headquarters in Kettering around 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The team is deploying to Eglin Air Force Base in Valparaiso, Florida ahead of the storm’s arrival.

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We’ll continue to update this story with the latest as it becomes available.


Ohio Task Force 1 has been activated ahead of Hurricane Michael, which is barreling toward the Florida Panhandle.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency and warned millions of people they have just hours to get ready.

Preparations are underway locally as well. The Ohio Task Force 1 urban search and rescue operation based in Kettering is assembling a 16-member water rescue team to stage at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in anticipation of the major storm, OH-TF1 spokesman Phil Sinewe said.

(Dayton, OH)— Ohio Task Force 1 (OHTF1) has received activation orders to deploy for Hurricane Michael. They have been...

Posted by Ohio Task Force 1 on Monday, October 8, 2018

The team comprising one water rescue manager, two water rescue squad officers, four boat operators, five water rescue specialists, one logistics specialist, one medical specialist and two support specialists will leave at 8 a.m. Tuesday, he said.

This is the second time this fall team members have responded to hurricane-ravaged areas.

In September, Ohio Task Force 1 sent two 16-member teams to North Carolina in response to devastating flooding following Hurricane Florence.

OH-TF1 members hail from across the state, including fire departments in Dayton, Huber Heights, Xenia, Beavercreek, Fairborn, Piqua, Clayton, Liberty Twp. and Mason.


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