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Hurricane Matthew: Local search and rescue team specialist on the East Coast

 

First responders from around the United States are on the East Coast to assist their local counterparts in providing aid in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Carl Levon Kustin of the Menlo Park-based Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 3 is among them.

Mr. Kustin is retired from the San Mateo Fire Department, but has stayed active with the task force, Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District said in a statement.

Mr. Kustin's expertise as a division group supervisor is in coordinating technical missions during a disaster, the chief said. Local first responders may be overwhelmed and in need of help in organizing projects such as a large-area search or a technical rescue, the chief said.

Mr. Kustin will be joining in search, rescue and recovery as part of a team organized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The team is now headed to Lakeland, Florida, from a base of operations in Georgia, the chief said. They'll be following the storm up the coast and staying nearby so that help is on the scene when it's needed.

Joining the first responders from California are their counterparts from task forces in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and New Jersey, the chief said.

Chief Schapelhouman noted that he worked with Mr. Kustin after the bombing of the federal office building in Oklahoma City in 1995, after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks of 2001, in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and other events.

"He’s one of the best special operators we have and he will be a significant asset to local responders as part of this support team," the chief said. "He knows how to get things done."

Urban Task Force 3 was last called upon for Super Storm Sandy, which caused storm surges and widespread flooding in New Jersey and New York City in 2012. The task force, one of 28 nationwide, includes specialists such as physicians, structural engineers, dog handlers and heavy equipment operators.

It's fire season in California, and there are local emergencies to consider. It's a balancing act, the chief said.

"We will be watching to see what else is needed and requested," he said. "It's nothing we haven’t had to do before and we’re proud to do it, helping others in their moment of need."

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