COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Hurricane Ian continues to wreak havoc on the state of Florida, Ohioans are headed in that direction ready to help however they can.
“We’re heading to central Florida right now,” Jack Reall said.
Reall is with Ohio Task Force 1, which is one of 28 federal urban search and rescue teams across the country sponsored by FEMA.
“We’re watching the radar [and] the state’s watching the radar,” he said. “Trying to figure out where they need resources, and as that updates, they’ll move people around.”
Fred Holmes has been an American Red Cross volunteer since 2005.
“We have more clients arriving by the minute,” he said.
Holmes is currently in Plant City, Florida, north of Fort Myers, and is helping with an evacuation center. Out of 14 volunteers there, he says three are from Ohio. Already, he said almost 400 people have come in who have had to leave their homes.
In 17 years, he’s been on more than 30 deployments.
“There’s things that I can do that I can’t do if I just stay home,” he said.
His focus is comfort, like shelter, food, medicine and getting people what they need. Reall and the 47 members that he is leading are focused on rescue.
“It’s everything from a complete building collapse to swift water rescue to damage assessment,” Reall said. “It could be any number of things, but we’re prepared for everything.”
Reall has been doing this for 20 years. His first deployment was 9/11. It was that experience that continues to call him to service.
“I saw what kind of service and help we could provide to that community and I feel like I had a responsibility after that to continue to do that for other communities that needed us,” he said.
And that, both he and Holmes agree, is what makes Ohio shine.
“Ohio has always been in the lead when it comes to sending volunteers,” Holmes said.
Always willing to help at a time when others feel completely helpless.
“It’s a very rewarding thing,” Holmes said. “I can’t think of anything better I would rather do.”