Urban Forest Strike Team
On May 27, 2019 Ohio experienced a record tornado outbreak that resulted in one confirmed death, destroyed homes and property, and substantial damage to the urban forest across many communities. Several of the large tornados, including an EF3 and EF4 impacted the City of Dayton, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and the City of Beavercreek.
In the following months the ODNR Urban Forestry Program worked closely with these communities and the USDA Forest Service to deploy Ohio’s Urban Forest Strike Team (UFST) as part of the area’s recovery effort. Established in 2015, Ohio’s UFST team consists of 30 urban foresters and International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborists from Ohio municipalities, universities, and state agencies that have completed the Task Specialist and Incident Command System training. The team also partnered with the Forest Service and Michigan’s U&CF program for a mock disaster exercise in Toledo in 2016. The network, trainings, and partnerships proved to be critical as Forest Service staff from the Morgantown and Durham Field Offices, Eastern Region, State and Private Forestry, worked closely with ODNR to provide planning materials, a cache of supplies, computer tablets, assessment tools, and GIS support to ensure a successful deployment for the Dayton region.
The 2019 deployment team included seven, two-person crews, GIS specialists, team leaders, and other support staff and observers. The response team hailed from all over the state including the communities of Cincinnati, Dayton, Hamilton, Hudson, Stow, Strongsville, Upper Arlington, and Worthington, as well as ODNR’s state urban foresters, Ohio State University, and the USDA Forest Service. The team’s primary objective was to help the communities retain as much viable, low risk tree canopy as possible following the tornados. Other objectives included increasing public safety, assisting communities in need that do not have staff with urban forest management expertise, and documenting disaster recovery needs for possible FEMA reimbursement.
The UFST Task Specialists collected data to support FEMA Public Assistance applications and performed tree risk assessments on 458 damaged trees for the City of Dayton, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and the City of Beavercreek. Each community was prepared with pre-event contracts or in-house crews to begin removing the trees assessed as high priority removals and conducting restoration pruning on trees identified for preservation. ODNR also captured video of the deployment and conducted interviews with the Task Specialists to develop a short documentary. The video will be used to promote this valuable service for Ohio’s communities. The deployment and video production were supported with funding from the Massachusetts Tree Wardens and Foresters Association grant through the USDA Forest Service.
Ohio’s first UFST deployment was successful due to the training, partnership, and support from the Forest Service and Ohio’s community foresters. The deployment also generated interest from other urban foresters around the state to become part of the team. ODNR plans to conduct additional Task Specialist trainings and mock disaster exercises over the next several years to keep up to date on the technology and risk assessment process and further grow our team to ensure an effective response for the next natural disaster.
You can view the video here (https://youtu.be/jCiStBtl3ts)