GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan Task Force 1 is watching the hurricane damage closely in Florida and is ready to help if called to assist with search and rescue.

The Grand Rapids Fire Department has six employees who serve on the task force. 

Cpt. Joaquin Martinez has deployed to hurricanes before, working as a rescue and water specialist. 

“Many times that incident starts right there as we’re driving down the road, we start running into weather, we start seeing how bad it’s going to be,” Martinez said. 

The team uses their own boat to search through the flood waters, moving from home to home and marking each one along the way. They also respond to calls for rescue.

“Sometimes we’ll get a call that, ‘Hey we didn’t get out of our house. Now we’re trapped in the attic because the water is so high up to the second floor. We were going to wait it out. Now we need help,’ and we would respond to something like that,” Martinez said.

The conditions can be especially dangerous. It is what crews cannot see that concerns them the most.

“Things like alligators and stuff like that are real … dangers. There are a lot of cut hazards because you can’t see underneath the water, so if you’re walking along and come across a broken street sign it’s going to rip your protective gear wide open,” he explained.

The training also requires a lot of commitment. Team members maintain certifications and work on exercises throughout the year to stay ready.  

“Just about every time we do some training we put boats in water and then put ourselves in the water as well as far as doing rescue techniques. We also all come to the task force with a number of credentials behind us,” Martinez said. 

Despite the long hours and all the work training, Martinez says even helping one person makes it all worth it.

“Anytime you can make any sort of a rescue or really make any sort of difference in somebody’s life that’s in that situation, it’s absolutely rewarding. It makes you smile and (say), ‘OK, now I know why I did all this stuff,’” Martinez said.