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North Carolina Sends Teams to Texas to Respond to Hurricane Harvey


RALEIGH: North Carolina is sending help to Texas as the state endures catastrophic flooding following Hurricane Harvey. Two Helo-Aquatic Rescue Teams, known as NC HART, are en route to San Antonio, Texas to help with flood rescue and response.

“Our state knows from experience with hurricanes how devastating flooding can be,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “Our hearts go out to the people of Texas, and we have two seasoned search and rescue teams with vast experience on their way to help.

Some of the same crews heading to Texas helped rescue people trapped in floodwaters last fall following Hurricane Matthew. Search and rescue crews pulled more than 2,300 people from flooded homes and cars when the storm hit North Carolina last October, including more than 100 rescued by helicopter.

Two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and eight airmen from the N.C. National Guard, six rescue technicians (three from the Charlotte Fire Department, two from Asheville Fire and one from Transylvania EMS), and two N.C. Emergency Management area coordinators will spend the next 10 days supporting rescue missions in San Antonio. The area coordinators departed Sunday afternoon for Little Rock, Arkansas where they rest before reporting to San Antonio on Monday. The Blackhawks and rescue crews will fly out Monday morning and meet up with the area coordinators in San Antonio in the afternoon.

“North Carolina is very fortunate to have a strong team of professionals who are more than willing to share their knowledge and experience to help others,” said Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks. “Having additional staff who have ‘been there, done that’ is invaluable during disasters.”

NC HART is a North Carolina Emergency Management asset that pairs the best civilian rescuers with military and law enforcement aviation assets. Local rescue technicians complete extensive helo-aquatic rescue training and are paired with helicopters from the State Highway Patrol or N.C. National Guard. On any given mission, two or three of the 60 specially-trained technicians are called upon and paired with helicopter pilots to rescue stranded or injured persons. Technicians and pilots train together monthly, rotating training sites so they can practice various types of rescues: people stranded in rapidly moving water, on mountains, cliffs or waterfalls. Formally established in 2004, the NC HART program was the first of its kind in the nation to implement a regimented training and response program that combines civilian and military resources.

Texas requested help from North Carolina through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), which helps coordinate relief for disaster-stricken states to make available the right type of resources at the right time. The requesting state (Texas in this case) fully reimburses the assisting state for the total costs incurred. All resources are coordinated between state emergency management agencies.

The EMAC system was developed by state governors following Hurricane Andrew in 1992 when critical resources were needed by the state of Florida. North Carolina has sent teams to help with numerous disaster response efforts including flooding in South Carolina and West Virginia in 2015, Virginia tornadoes that same year, to Louisiana and Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina, and Alaska following flooding in 2007.

“Good neighbors are always ready and willing to lend a helping hand when asked,” said Cooper.