A couple of weeks back, I sat down with two senior members of Virginia Task Force 1, Capt. Joseph Knerr and Lt. Rodney Vaughan of Fairfax County’s International Search and Rescue Team for an in-depth interview of what they experienced during a mission to Japan following the earthquake and tsunami. It’s a five part interview that tells their story in their own words.
Linked here is Part 2. Be sure to check back with Security Debrief – and also on Defense Media Network – for the rest of the series.
Conducting an interview in an active firehouse near the Capital Beltway in suburban Washington, D.C. with two senior, on-duty firefighters is a lot like being in the middle of a busy pizza shop on a Friday night. Phones are ringing, loudspeakers are blaring information and people are constantly on the move, going in and out of the area. Instead of people covered in flour, dough and sauce, in a fire station the people on the move are wearing nearly thirty pounds of equipment and the “deliveries” going out the door come courtesy of big, red, box-shaped trucks with sirens and flashing lights.
There is an ebb and flow to the day of any firefighter or EMT (emergency medical technician). The calls into the station are a constant, and the need to process the minuscule amount of information given by 911 operators so they can prepare and adequately respond to the needs of the person(s) requiring emergency assistance is a marvel to watch. You can literally be having a conversation about what they were doing to prepare to go to Japan to respond to one of the world’s epic disasters when a buzzer goes off and out the door they go, jumping on to a truck headed out to attend to a car vs. motorcycle accident.
Sitting in an almost empty firehouse hearing the chatter over the radios about all of the other calls going on around the area makes you appreciate the unpredictability of what they walk into day in and day out. No one call is the same as another. The same holds true for disasters. Despite the searing memories and experiences of your last major deployment (Haiti), the next one you go to is going to be completely different, and how you prepare for it, what you take and what you learn is going to be dramatically different as well.
As the conversation continues with Capt. Joe Knerr, one of two Task Force Leaders of Virginia Task Force 1 and Lt. Rodney Vaughan, another senior member of the elite team from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department at Fire Station 18 in Falls Church, Va., they share with Defense Media Network’s Senior Homeland Security Writer Rich Cooper their trip over to Japan, what they encountered when they deployed to the disaster areas, and some of what they saw.