Hurricane Ian updates: How Pennsylvania is preparing to help victims

45 members of PA Task Force 1 have packed their bags and are heading south to help victims of Hurricane Ian.

“Obviously we would all be happy if the effects of the storm weren’t as bad as we currently believe, but this is a really, really important agreement that we have with FEMA,” said Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Adam Thiel .

PA Task Force 1 is sponsored by the Philadelphia Fire Department and includes members from other Pennsylvania regions.

A convoy of buses, trucks and equipment deployed to a staging area in Columbus, South Carolina on Wednesday.

The group includes specialists trained in search and rescue and hazardous materials.

“We’re prepared for collapses, any type of water rescue, any type of technical rescue,” said Deputy Chief Carl Randolph, the task force leader for that mission.

As they check their equipment, they also prepare themselves mentally.

“When we come in you see a lot of handshakes and hugs and that’s because we haven’t seen each other for a while. And now that we’re back, that’s part of our emotional support,” Randolph said.

Before the storm, the American Red Cross dispatched 14 volunteers from southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey to Orlando, Fla., and more are standing by.

Action News spoke to volunteer Frederick Lehman of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania shortly after he arrived in Orlando.

“We’ve loaded a couple of trucks with supplies, and as soon as the hurricane is over, we’re going to start going to the shelters that are open and supplying those shelters,” said Lehman, who is expected to spend two to four weeks in Florida.

Animals in the hurricane zone also need protection.

Brandywine Valley SPCA is attempting to make room by waiving or reducing adoption fees and preparing to accommodate as many evacuees as possible.

“We have a network to get the first call from shelters that are affected in those areas, in this case Florida. We also have partners up here who will take in some of the animals,” said Linda Torelli, chief marketing officer for the Brandywine Valley SPCA.

The shelter has been taking in hurricane evacuees for five years, and they say it’s crucial to get their current animals to good homes first.

“The idea is that if animals from the Florida shelter need to move out of the area, we’ll make room so that we’re ready right away,” Torelli said.

Local energy suppliers are also preparing to help.

PECO has dispatched a team to support Florida Power and Light during outages, with additional crews standing by.

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