On June 24, 2021, at 1:15 am, there was a partial collapse of the 12-story, 136-unit Champlain Towers South located in Surfside, FL.
Less than 36-hours later, BOSS Teammate Principal Al Studt was activated for deployment as a member of Central Florida’s Task Force 4 Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team.
It was an e-mail Al was expecting. He is a founding member of Task Force 4 and has served on the team since 2003. He was deployed to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Berkman Garage Collapse in Jacksonville in 2007. He was voted Member of the Year in 2015.
Forty-two members of Task Force 4 supported the Surfside mission, working 12-hour shifts, from midnight through noon. This was the first time in history all eight Florida USAR teams responded to the same incident.
“On day one, I was up for 28 straight hours, which included working the scene from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., that was new for me,” said Al.
A Lead Engineer for Fire Systems at KSC, Al is also a U.S. National Grid Instructor, Communications and Structures Specialist, and Lieutenant with Cape Canaveral Fire Rescue.
“I basically had 38 years of training for a one week mission,” said Al.
Al served as a Structures Specialist (StS) at the Surfside collapse. In this role, Al and his partner StS performed a sort of building and rubble “triage” by assessing the structural condition of the task force’s operations area, recommending mitigations to minimize risks, and continuously monitoring the structure throughout the search and rescue mission.
The StS orange helmets were conspicuous as they performed 360-degree reconnaissance.
“The internal and external teamwork was outstanding,” said Al. “TF4 worked side by side with other state Task Forces in conditions that included the initial pile fire, smoke, dust, wind and daily heavy rains trying to find anyone we could.”
Al and his Task Force 4 teammates were lauded by their leader, Orlando District Chief Walter Lewis, following their week-long stint.
“I am so proud of our members who deployed and for those who supported us from home,” said Chief Lewis.
“Each member operated with distinction and dedication, but I would like to give special thanks to our Structures Specialists Al Studt, Brett Rylands, Warner Chang, Jon Milton, and Byron Evetts."
“I had full confidence our team could work within the shadow of the remaining uncollapsed portion because of their over watch. Thank you guys, your work was crucial and greatly appreciated.”
Al also praised family and Aerodyne for their support to his heroic mission.
“Thanks to Andy [Allen], Lee [Williams], Carl [McManus], HR, my wife, Lori, and everyone that supported me in this effort,” said Al.
Al Studt assesses the destruction (left) and poses with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (right) who visited rescue workers in late June.