Team R&R Disaster Assistance, a nonprofit operation, was founded in 1999 to function as a specially trained rescue team “to help fill the gap between normal community needs and the needs that occur in a time of crisis,” according to John Hamrick, a Ft. Wayne, Indiana, firefighter and the team’s founder. The team–which has responded to the World Trade Center attacks in New York City, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Barry in Florida, the Mississippi River flood, and other disasters–does not charge communities or individuals for its services. It is funded through equipment and financial donations and the proceeds of Hamrick’s part-time operation, JHH, Inc., a communications tower maintenance and repair business. “Our goal is to help disaster victims whenever needed; we are flexible in the types of responses we can handle, and can stay on the site for up to two weeks,” the team’s brochures explains. “The team was founded with the dream of providing as much help to others with the resources available,” says Hamrick.
The team, which operates from a Hummer, can operate at an emergency site for one to two weeks without outside resources. The Hummer has onboard communications that enables the team to stay in contact with its members, local officials, and its command center. Its equipment includes firefighting gear, a hard bottom inflatable boat, rafts, scuba equipment, more than a mile of static and dynamic rope, and various rigging equipment. The team scans CNN news and the Weather Channel to learn of developing emergencies.
Team members are experienced in various rescue special areas. Hamrick, a 10-year veteran of the Fort Wayne Fire Department, has 18 years of diving experience and has been a diving instructor for six years and a cave diver for four years. He received a medal of valor for a water rescue and was the Red Cross 2002 Jefferson Award recipient, in recognition of the community service performed by Team R&R.
John Franklin Friend serves as the Team’s public information officer/marketing director. He has been a commercial river guide for 16 years and is a wilderness first responder and is experienced in swift water rescue and risk and crisis scene management.
Dave Palmer, medical liaison, has been employed by American Medical Response as a paramedic for six years. He has been a PADI (open water instructor) for five years and has 14 years of diving experience. He is a certified rescue, ice, and cave diver.
Dan Eakins, logistics coordinator, has been a firefighter for 16 years and an EMT for 14 years. He is certified in haz mat, high angle rescue, water rescue, and auto extrication.
Ron Eakins, safety officer, has been a firefighter and EMT since 1977. A former fire department chief, he has had extensive training in triage, incident command, auto extrication, haz mat, and water rescue.
Erich Christian Fuss specializes in high angle rescue and rapid descent for first-on assessment, is a rigging specialist, and is experienced in risk and crisis scene management.