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Tallmadge -- When a disaster strikes, a Tallmadge firefighter/paramedic wants to be among the first to respond.
Andy Miller, 41, who's been a firefighter/paramedic for a 16 1/2 years, hopes to join Ohio Task Force One, one of 28 urban search and rescue teams in the country.
The task force, based in Dayton, is deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rescue to people involved in natural or man-made disasters
"They're the top of the top, the best of the best," according to Miller. "Members come from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky with all different levels of skill -- (on the) medical side, search and rescue, canines, engineers."
Miller aspires to be the first member of the Tallmadge Fire Department to join the prestigious task force.
"It's been an ongoing process for me, six years or so, of training and classes, and I've finally reached the point where I can apply for the team," he says.
Miller joined the Tallmadge Fire Department in 2003. He was recently promoted to Battalion Chief and supervises the B shift at stations 1 and 2. Miller also works part time as a fire medic for the city of Munroe Falls and is a member and zone coordinator of the Summit County Technical Rescue Team.
Despite the 80-hour work week he averages, Miller says, "I love my job. I was the little kid who always wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up."
To apply for OH-TF1, Miller needed a resolution of support from the city. On July 14, City Council voted to authorize the mayor to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Miami Valley Fire/EMS Alliance; the mayor said the move allows the Tallmadge Fire Department to participate in Ohio Task Force One.
Appointment to OH-TF1 requires highly sophisticated training in all aspects of rescue work. With Council's backing, Miller says it would be 18 months in the best case scenario before he could be a full-fledged rescue specialist with the task force. His focus would be confined space, water, structural collapse and high angle rescue.
Miller knows several colleagues who have been members of OH-TF1, who were deployed to New York City following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "I remember thinking, 'Someday I want to be on their level,'" Miller recalls, adding, "I feel a need to help -- it's what I want to do and I know I would be good at it."
Fire Chief Michael G. Passarelli says Miller's membership on OH-TF1 would benefit both the city and Summit County in terms of the information he would glean and could share.
"It would be an honor for both Andy and Tallmadge," Passarelli says.
If Miller makes the task force and it is activated by FEMA for response to an emergency, the government would reimburse the Tallmadge Fire Department for the time that Miller is deployed. When disaster strikes, Miller would have a three-hour window to get from his home base down to Dayton.
"I'm ready," Miller says. "I'd appreciate the chance."
Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC