On Monday, January 7, Georgia Search and Rescue (GSAR) Task Force 2 began a week-long training that will serve as the last training for the new Georgia Search and Rescue recruit class. Thirty-eight members have completed more than 300 hours of training this past year. Georgia Search and Rescue covers the southwest region of Georgia, including parts of Alabama and Florida. Most of the work done by GSAR is on a volunteer basis. The team could be deployed for several weeks at a time, if not longer. In past years, the team has responded to natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Baker County tornadoes, and the wildfires in Ware and Atkinson Counties in 2007. More recently, the team was requested during Hurricane Michael, Hurricane Irma, and the Adel and Albany tornadoes.
The last training class is usually held in October, but because GSAR had to deploy for Hurricane Michael, it was postponed to January 2019. During this training, the recruiting class is taught four disciplines: rope rescue, confined space, trench rescue, and structural collapse. To ensure proficiency on skills, Task Force 2 holds four 8-hour refreshers and at least one drill every year, along with any drills done with local businesses.
“When we train together, we become a more unified team. If you learn something one day, then try to do it six years later, you’re not going to remember it. So we try to stay on top of our skills,” said Jeff Thibodeau, Special Operations Captain.
After completion of the class, on Saturday, January 12, the thirty-eight new members will graduate. The new GSAR members will bring the team total to 93 people, possibly the second largest team in the state.
“The biggest advantage of having Georgia Search and Rescue Task Force 2 here is we have $1.3 million worth of equipment in a vehicle that’s housed in Valdosta and it’s comprised of eleven different fire departments within the southwest region of Georgia,” said Thibodeau. “It is a valuable resource that can be used locally.”
For more information about the Georgia Search and Rescue team or if you have any questions, call the City of Valdosta Fire Department at 229-333-1835.