NewsPinellas County


Bay Area elite rescue team upgrades training and equipment following Hurricane Harvey

Rescue team prepares for hurricane-level flooding
Posted at 5:42 PM, Jul 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-25 20:36:04-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The local hurricane heroes who saved lives in Houston are training in Pinellas County today. ABC Action News giving you a closer look at what's being done to better protect you should a major hurricane hit the Bay Area.

The Pinellas County Technical Rescue Team knows how to train hard. Every other month they do swift water training for situations like rip currents or someone that's fallen off a boat. But now this same team is slowly building up new equipment and techniques to prepare for something they don’t see every day -- hurricane-level flooding.

Changes are coming to Tampa Bay's waters as the Pinellas County Technical Rescue Team upgrades how they handle water emergencies. It's all lessons learned from seeing the worst in Texas. 

“And if it happened in Pinellas County with us surrounded by the waters we are surrounded by, I have a feeling it would be devastation here," said instructor Jonathan Blinkey. 

Blinkey saved lives during Hurricane Harvey. Today, he's bringing those skills home. Since coming back these elite rescuers have invested about $24,000 in equipment. Half their team now has specialty dry suits to protect them from contaminated waters like they saw in Texas.

"You've got septic systems bubbling up, you've got oils and gasoline from cars," said instructor Aaron Bruckler. He was also deployed to Texas.

Their team is working to complete a wish-list but they still need two hard bottom boats because when the waters are high enough hidden dangers lurk below. To fully complete their wish list of new equipment this team still needs about a quarter million dollars in funding.

“There’s things underwater you can’t see," said Bruckler. "You are hitting mailboxes with your boat, you're hitting cars and running into just about anything you can think of.”
Their last boat's motor destroyed in Texas. But beyond equipment needs, these pros are teaching their team how to read unfamiliar flood waters.

"You see stacks of two-by-fours spinning and it tells you to stay away from it," said Blinkey.
From equipment to training they're preparing should a Harvey scenario happen here.