Maryland and Virginia urban search and rescue teams headed for Louisiana and Texas Thursday to help with any rescue efforts in advance of Hurricane Ike.

A light task force of 35 Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel headed for a staging area in Louisiana in a nine-vehicle caravan. Anne Arundel County Battalion Chief Anthony Burke is also deployed as a member of the team.

"Today, we are better prepared to deal with all disasters, both man-made and natural, because of the cooperation developed between agencies after 9-11," Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold said about the deployment. "I am confident that our commitment to help others will be repaid 10-fold should we ever find ourselves in similar circumstances.”

Another team from Fairfax County was also deployed to the Gulf Coast Thursday night. Virginia Task Force One recently returned from responding to Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Hanna.

The urban search and rescue teams, deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, include specialists such as structural engineers, search and rescue canine teams, communications, planning, hazardous materials and medical personnel, and are trained to be self sufficient.
Other task forces and Incident Support Teams from Ohio, Missouri and Florida are also being deployed and pre-positioned in the region.

Ike is expected to bring hurricane-force winds to the Texas coast as early as Friday before making landfall over the weekend.