As Tropical Storm Harvey continues to dump torrential rainfall on parts of Texas causing life-threating flooding, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is ramping up its efforts to assist with search-and-rescue missions and to aid state and local agencies in any way possible.
“Our highest priority in an emergency is life preservation and the safe evacuation of those in impacted areas,” said CBP Lead Field Coordinator Judson W. Murdock II. “In order to assist with the evacuation and search-and-rescue efforts, CBP has deployed well-trained personnel as well as a number of assets such as boats and aircraft to the areas hardest hit by this disaster.”
As in previous natural disasters, CBP has already brought in more than 40 agents with emergency medical training to assist local, state and federal search-and-rescue and evacuation operations — and more are on the way. The Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector has deployed 25 agents from the sector’s Special Operations Division, the Office of Field Operation’s Laredo Field Office has sent a Special Response Team to a staging area in Dallas to be deployed where needed most, and 14 special operators are on hot standby in El Paso.
Additionally in Houston, CBP has brought in U.S. Border Patrol assets to include three flat bottom boats, four jet skis, two zodiac boats and 10 riverine shallow-draft vessels. Additional marine assets from the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo and Del Rio sectors are en route to Houston. Once they arrive, CBP will have 37 vessels with nearly 100 personnel on board. Along with the riverine assets, an emergency trailer, sleeping mats, nitrile gloves, first aid kits, hygiene products, MREs, batteries, hand sanitizer and water have been sent as part of the relief efforts. Eight air boats have also been deployed by CBP’s Air and Marine Operations.
In addition to the water-rescue efforts, CBP has brought in air assets from across the nation to assist in search-and-rescue and relief operations. Among the air assets previously deployed, CBP is bringing in two Blackhawk helicopters from Miami and a P-3 from Jacksonville, Florida.
On top of that, CBP personnel, who serve in non-law enforcement capacities, have volunteered to help out as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Surge Capacity Force. Approximately 135 CBP personnel will be deployed over the next few days to assist in areas such as logistics, community relations, individual assistance, and public assistance. Within those specialized categories, CBP personnel will assist with the storage and movement of critical materials in support of disaster response, provide aid to survivors, reach out to the public about available disaster assistance programs and monitor debris.
Outside the area hardest hit by Harvey, the Office of Field Operations in New Orleans remained ready to limit the impact of the storm and its effect on the travel industry. Beginning early Saturday through Monday morning, three cruise ships destined for Galveston, Texas, were met by a strong contingent of CBP officers at the Port of New Orleans. Nearly 12,000 cruise passengers were welcomed and processed quickly, allowing them to seek alternate travel plans home or return to their ship. In addition, CBP officers, working at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) provided similar operations as an international flight from Peru was diverted Saturday from Houston to MSY. Additionally, CBP in New Orleans has vehicles, support trucks and an emergency trailer in service ready for deployment.
“As long as Harvey continues to devastate the region, CBP will remain steadfast in our efforts to save lives,” Murdock said. “Once the storm passes, CBP will continue to support our communities with recovery efforts as needed.”