Mississippians are using their resources to lend a helping hand in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
There are just over 300 members of the Mississippi Search and Rescue Task Force. Thirty-five of them started their trip home Wednesday from a deployment to Clay County, Florida. Members of the team come from agencies across Mississippi, including: Biloxi, Columbus, DeSoto County, Diamondhead, Grenada, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Hernando, Horn Lake, Madison, McComb, Olive Branch, Oxford, Philadelphia, Pike County, Southaven, Starkville, and Tupelo.
"It's not often that we get the opportunity to help other states that help us in disasters too," explained Mark McKee, Mississippi Office of Homeland Security Executive Director. "So it's our way of giving back. The guys we sent down there to do this work did a tremendous job."
Their mapping capabilities and training helped the crew seamlessly integrate into the rescue operations.
"We really wanted to assist and help those and when it came out to say hey we need assistance, we jumped right on it," added Chris Olson, search and rescue task force leader. "And said hey, we can come help."
They were able to rescue 16 people, 15 dogs, and two cats.
"The biggest thing is once we make contact and see their face and see that someone's there," said Chad Bryant, search and rescue mission commander. "Majority of the time, even in the situation, we're getting God Bless You. Thank you so much. You know, thank you for coming down here to help us."
In the last month alone, over 3,400 man-hours of training were logged by members of the Search and Rescue Task Force.
"Our office alone has put millions of dollars not only into state of the art training but equipment for them as well," described McKee. " So, the boats, trucks, equipment trailers, everything they brought down to Florida, were all paid for out of federal grant money this office receives for the state of Mississippi."
Over in Houston, Senator Willie Simmons delivered 85,000 pounds of supplies to Harvey victims earlier this week.
"Started collecting items Tuesday afternoon and by Friday noon, we had filled an 18 wheeler up and was looking for another truck," explained Simmons.
Simmons and his Senator's Place staff also cooked and fed nearly 1,000 victims and workers a BBQ lunch before heading home.