General Session: Surfside Collapse

On June 24, 2021, the 12-story Florida beachfront condominium, Champlain Towers South collapsed at 1:22 am causing the death of 98 people.  More than 80 rescue units responded to the event, including USAR teams from as far away as Israel.  Our own NJTF1 responded as one of the elite FEMA USAR teams deployed to the scene.   

Dr. Ben Abo, Medical Director of FLTF1, will share his experiences working at the scene of the collapse for almost a month, including the impact of working on a local event where rescuers have lost friends and family. Florida state emergency management efforts were led by Steve Hynes.  He will share the intricacies of coordinating with the local OEM to support operations during a prolonged event.   

Members from NJTF1 will share their involvement in this international-scale USAR deployment. 

Dr. Benjamin Abo, DO Paramedic FAWM

Dr. Abo is an EMS physician and toxinologist in Naples, Florida and assistant professor for Florida Statue University School of Medicine. He started in EMS over 27 years ago as a teenager in high school in Mount Laurel, NJ when he quickly became certified as an EMT.
After completing a bachelor’s degree in Emergency Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, where he also obtained his NREMT-P, CCEMT-P, and FP-C as well as interned at NJOEMS, he stayed on as faculty for the Center for Emergency Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh Department of Emergency Medicine as a researcher and Coordinator of Education in International Emergency Medicine/EMS. He then spent some time abroad living in India just prior to starting medical school in the San Francisco Bay area.
After walking with honors from a dual medicine and master’s in public health program from Touro College of Medicine – California, he took time off prior to residency to start a non-profit in Africa aimed at decreasing maternal and neonatal mortality and trauma. He completed a four-year emergency medicine residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center – Miami Beach and Ryder Trauma Center in Miami, FL, while completing a fellowship in wilderness medicine through the Wilderness Medical Society. After residency, Dr. Abo completed an EMS fellowship at the University of Florida where he then accepted a full-time position.
Throughout all his training, Dr. Abo has remained clinically active in EMS FL-5 DMAT disaster team, FEMA/Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) Task Force 1 (FLTF1). In 2019, he left his full-time position with the University of Florida to move to Naples to be closer to his USAR team that he is the coordinating medical team manager for.
He has also remained active as a paramedic physician with current specialty rescue certifications with various services globally and continues to do research and lecture globally. This included being Assistant Medical Director for Hallandale Beach Fire Rescue prior to the merger with county fire rescue. Dr. Abo has authored numerous chapters and research on a variety of EMS topics including multiple chapters in Wilderness EMS Textbooks. He currently oversees medical direction and consultation for several projects, services, EMS schools, and media production including Shark Week, Nat Geo Wild, and Kings of Pain.
He has a strong interest in anything EMS, toxinology/venoms, EMS for children, international EM/EMS, mentorship, resiliency and sustainability in emergency services, disaster medicine, educational and experiential processes, wilderness/austere medicine, and technical rescue practices.

Steven Hynes, CEM, MEP

Steve is a Homeland Security Emergency Management Executive with over 35 yrs. Experience.  He is currently working for Deloitte as an executive and has helped clients with over $5 billion in recovery grants. 

He has served as the Deputy Director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management in the Executive Office of the Governor and as the Deputy State Coordinating Officer (DSCO). He has served as FEMA Operations Section Chief (OSC) for Region IV (South East United (8) States) Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT).

He has served as Director of Emergency Management for the City of Delray Beach, Palm Beach County Florida. He has served as a Type III  Incident Commander on an International All Hazards Incident Management Team since 2010 with multiple deployments.

He is a retired law enforcement officer supervisor and worked multiple assignments over his 24-year career. Steve is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) and Master Exercise Practioner (MEP) and his career is marked with multiple local, state and federal leadership experiences and accomplishments in Public and Individual Assistance as well as holistic community resilience, recovery, strategies and operations.

New Jersey Task Force 1, is one of 28 federal FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams in the country. We were brought into the federal system in September of 2016, and are extremely proud and honored to have been adopted into the system with the 27 other highly skilled and trained teams throughout the country. 

​The team has been in existence since 1996 as a state resource and still today we maintain that state status.  As a state team they operate under the authority of the New Jersey State Police, Homeland Security Branch, Office of Emergency Management. 

Members from NJTF1 will provide the New Jersey connection to this event and share their involvement from this nationally televised deployment.