Local first responders headed for Virginia's east coast to support Dorian relief

Crews activated by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management

ROANOKE, Va. – The Virginia Department of Emergency Management has called search and rescue crews from across the state to the eastern coast ahead of Hurricane Dorian's arrival there.

That includes a few dozen from the Southwest Virginia region. When you go to war, you call in all the troops. That's why state leaders have this mutual aid program in place for possible disaster relief efforts.

Roanoke City crews have done this before. Most recently, they were in Texas for Hurricane Harvey. Calls to 911 will still be answered, but these folks see this as their time to help.

As Hurricane Dorian threatens the Virginia coast, crews in our area, far outside the wrath, are gearing up.

Roanoke City battalion chief Robert Perdue is team lead for Division 6, comprised of Roanoke, Salem and Franklin County swift water crews.

"If it's a catastrophic event, I don't think there's any department that could handle it by themselves," Perdue said. "We're getting closer to the scene because it takes us so long to get to the east coast, to they want us in place where we can rapidly respond."

Bedford County and the City of Lynchburg are also sending their own crews in a different convoy. Bedford County special operations command Monty Coleman said they were told by those with boots on the ground now to be prepared to work.

"We may search homes, remove victims from areas where they may not have evacuated when they should have, it depends on what the storm does," Coleman said.

State leaders asked the Roanoke Valley crews to bump up their departure from Friday to Thursday early Thursday morning. They're all preparing to spend three to four days in the hot zone where damage to property and person will be the worst.

"Just like when we go into burning buildings, they think we're crazy, but we've trained a long time to do what we do and this is just an opportunity to give back to the citizens of the commonwealth," Coleman said.

Years of experience gets it down to a science, but like always, they're prepared to experience more.

"Every time we deploy we learn something new, and we use those skills in the valley," Perdue said. "It happens on every deployment that we go to."

New this year, the crews will be able to use higher tech radios that allow different departments to communicate with each other. Older radios did not have that capability and communication makes for a more seamless response.

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