Haiti earthquake relief: Fairfax County Search and Rescue

President Barack Obama pledges the U.S. support to the Haitian people in the wake of a powerful earthquake in the island nation. He said images and reports coming from the country are 'truly heart-wrenching.'
Michael Schaff
Fairfax County, Virginia Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team
Wednesday, January 13, 2010; 12:00 PM

Foreign governments and international aid organizations are mobilizing to send assistance to Haiti, after the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in the impoverished island nation devastated much of the capital.

Michael Schaff, battalion chief at the Fairfax County Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team, was online Wednesday, Jan. 13, at Noon ET to discuss preparations underway for earthquake-devastated Haiti.


Michael Schaff: Hi, Michale Schaff here. Our team is currently on thier way to Haiti and will arrive early afternoon. They expect to go to work as soon as they land


Washington, D.C.: When were you contacted to go down there, and how long do you expect to be there?

Michael Schaff: We were contactedlast night at apporx. 6pm


Arlington, Va.: What's your team's attitude about a mission like this? Do you go in hoping for the best or expecting the worst?

Michael Schaff: We always go in hoping to find and save those that ay still be alive. They are always prepared for the worst


Bethesda, Md.: What are the challenges of doing this kind of operation in a poorer nation, where the infrastructure is limited?

Michael Schaff: It is a challege anytime we deploy to an emergency of this nature. The group is self sustaining for the period of time they are there. The most difficult thing will be to try and get our people to take a break when their shift is over.


Fairfax County, Va.: As a long-time Fairfax County resident I am so proud of our world-class urban rescue team deploying to Haiti.

Is there anything you need us to do to support their efforts while they are away?

Michael Schaff: Thanks for the support. You can keep them and the Haitian people in your thoughts and prayers. dont forget about the people here that are working to cover the slots of those we have deployed.


Washington, D.C.: They are saying that maybe hundreds of thousands have died. Are you prepared for such a mission? Who else may help in the serach and rescue mission?

Michael Schaff: LA county is also being deployed.


Annandale, Va.: Can you give us rundown of your procedure once you get there, step by step?

Michael Schaff: I cannot provide that for security reasons. I can say that they will hit the group running as soon as they arrive. Their is a very large action plan they are working by to ensure they use every minute to the best of their ability.


Alexandria, Va.: Where will you land in Haiti? We hear the airport was devastated.

Michael Schaff: Port a Prince.


Baltimore, Md.: What other places have you done work in before? Are you worldwide recognized? How many people on this mission?

Michael Schaff: We have been several places of worldwide. We are well known for our international work but this is just a testament to the dedication of the men and women who do the job daily.


Anonymous: How are you keeping abreast of the current conditions in Haiti? Will you yourself be going there?

Michael Schaff: They have liason on the group with USAID that is speaking with our support center hear. No I will not be going on this deployment. I am currently in the support center with several other team members


Washington, D.C.: So is the airport safe to land in?

Michael Schaff: That is where we will be landing. I understand that one runway is in decent condition


Washington, D.C.: Are the men and women who work for Fairfax Task Force 1 volunteers or are they regular employees?

Michael Schaff: there are a few volunteers that are on the team but the majority of the team are paid professional firefighter/paramedics from fairfax County


College, Park, Md.: Are you one planeload or more? What exactly are you taking with you? Are you manpower and supplies or what?

Michael Schaff: They are taking two planes. They are taking all equipment and medical supplies that are needed.


Michael Schaff: Just got word that the team just lifted off from Dulles


Washington, D.C.: Are you taking search dogs/K9 teams with you?

Michael Schaff: Yes 6 K9 specialist are assigned to this deployment


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