COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Though hurricane season officially ended Nov. 30, Texas A&M Task Force 1 (TX-TF1) never rests. The team experienced its busiest year ever in 2018, and it is gearing up for what could potentially be another year of significant weather events. The team deployed 18 times last year, including 12 deployments in September and October. Members were deployed all but five days during the two-month period, and a total of 571 TX-TF1 members were deployed throughout the whole year.

The team went on both state and federal deployments in response to severe weather, flash flooding, wild fires, and Hurricanes to include Michael, Florence and Olivia. In Texas alone, TX-TF1 members deployed in support of 73 Texas counties, after the state experienced two 500-year flooding events.

It is a misconception to think that the team only deploys during hurricane season, says TX-TF1 Director Jeff Saunders.

“We have responded to events during every month of the year, including tornadoes in December and flooding in April." Saunders said. "Eighty percent of our deployments are water-related, and at least a third of our deployments have been outside hurricane season. For this reason, we train year-round so we can respond at a moment’s notice, regardless of the ‘season.’ When we respond, our goal is to do the most good for the most people in the least amount of time.”

The team is comprised of over 750 members, and last year alone, they completed nearly 30,000 hours of training – all voluntary, unpaid time, Saunders added. Training events are scheduled throughout the year, including an annual Operational Readiness Exercise (ORE), which will be held at Disaster City® in February 2019.

Over its 21-year history, TX-TF1 has deployed 160 times, to some of the largest events on record, including the World Trade Center terrorist attack; the Columbia Shuttle explosion; Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, Harvey and Michael; the Moore, OK tornado; Wimberley, TX flooding; the West, TX fertilizer plant explosion; the Bastrop wildfires; the Camp Fire in California; and many more.

“When TX-TF1 shows up, people are having the worst day in their lives, and we are there to help. But this is not a situation any of us want to be in,” Saunders says. He encourages citizens to monitor local weather reports, follow evacuation orders issued by government officials and never drive across flooded roadways. It’s always best to “Turn Around, Don’t Drown,” he warns.

And that’s something Texans should take to heart as the state recovers from the wettest autumn on record. Brazos County received about 50 inches of rain for the year, with 30 of those inches falling between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, according to local reports. September through November also was the second wettest autumn on record for the contiguous United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

About Texas A&M Task Force 1

TX-TF1 is sponsored by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and has deployed over 150 times since 1997. The team can be activated by the Texas Division of Emergency Management or as one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's 28 sanctioned urban search and rescue teams.