FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force


FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force

A FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force (US&R Task Force) is a team of individuals specializing in urban search and rescue, disaster recovery, and emergency triage and medicine. The teams are deployed to emergency and disaster sites within six hours of notification. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) created the Task Force concept to provide support for large scale disasters in the United States. FEMA provides financial, technical and training support for the Task Forces as well as creating and verifying the standards of Task Force personnel and equipment.

There are 28 Task Forces in the United States, each sponsored by a local agency. In the event of a disaster in the United States, the nearest three Task Forces will be activated and sent to the site of the disaster. If the situation is large enough, additional teams will be activated.cite web | url = http://www.fema.gov/emergency/usr/about.shtm | title = About US&R | publisher = FEMA | accessdate = August 25 | accessyear = 2006]

Task Force makeup

Each task force is made up of two 31-person teams, four canines, and a comprehensive equipment cache.

Each task force member is a specialist in one of four areas:
* Search - locating victims of a disaster
* Rescue - extricating a victim from the location where they are trapped, usually involving removing debris from around the victim
* Technical - structural specialists who provide engineering support for the rescuers
* Medical - providing medical treatment for the team, canines and victims before, during and after rescue

The search and rescue personnel are organized into four Rescue Squads, each composed of an Officer and five Rescue Specialists, and are capable of working 12-hour alternating shifts. The medical personnel include two task force physicians and four Medical Specialists.cite web | url = http://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/usr/task_force_documents_equip_cach_list_intro.pdf | title = 2003-2004 Task Force Equipment Cache List | format = PDF | publisher = FEMA | accessdate = August 28 | accessyear = 2006]

Canine rescuers

The canine rescuers are a critical element of each US&R Task Force as their keen sense of smell allows them to locate victims that might go undiscovered. The majority of the dog-handlers on the Task Forces are civilian volunteers. The dogs are usually considered to be family pets by the handlers when the dogs are not on duty.cite web | url = http://www.fema.gov/emergency/usr/canine.shtm | title = Canine's Role in Urban Search and Rescue | publisher = FEMA | accessdate = August 28 | accessyear = 2006]

The canine rescuers will become dejected if they are unsuccessful in locating victims as they consider search and rescue to be a type of game. To keep the spirits of the canines up, one of the Task Force members will hide in the rubble so the dog will have a successful 'find'. In most instances, the dogs do not wear any safety equipment while working a debris pile as they need to be able to splay their paws to obtain maximum traction. Because of the distinct possibility of injury from broken glass and metal, the medical unit maintains supplies for the canine rescuers.

Each of the canines is categorized as either Type II Disaster Search Canine (Basic certification) or Type I Disaster Search Canine (Advanced certification). [cite web | url = http://www.fema.gov/emergency/usr/caninecert.shtm | title = Canine and Handler Certification | publisher = FEMA | accessdate = August 28 | accessyear = 2006]

History

The origins of the FEMA Task Forces goes back to the early 1980s when the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department and Metro-Dade County Fire Department created search and rescue teams to deal with rescue operations in collapsed buildings. The State Department and the Office of Foreign Disaster Aid requested the help of these teams to assist with rescue operations in the 1985 Mexico City, the 1990 Luzon and the 1989 Leninakan earthquakes.

Seeing the value in having a network of such teams in the United States, FEMA created the National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Response System in 1989. In 1991, the concept was incorporated into the National Response Plan. FEMA sponsored 25 national urban search-and-rescue task forces. The number of teams has expanded to 28 since 1991.

Notable US&R Task Force responses

Task Forces respond to a variety of different situations ranging from natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes to man-made disasters such as gas explosions and bombings. Listed below are a few of the notable situations that US&R Task Forces have responded to:
* Hurricane Iniki, Kauai, Hawaii - September 11 1992
* Northridge earthquake, Los Angeles County, California - January 17 1994
* Oklahoma City bombing, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - April 19 1995
* Hurricane Opal, Fort Walton Beach, Florida - October 6 1995
* Humberto Vidal Explosion, Río Piedras, Puerto Rico - November 21 1996
* Explosion of DeBruce Grain Elevator, Wichita, Kansas - 8 June 1998
* Izmit, Turkey earthquake - August 17 1999
* Athens, Greece earthquake - September 7, 1999
* Hurricane Floyd - North Carolina - September 16 1999
* Düzce, Turkey earthquake - 12 November 1999
* World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, New York, New York and Washington, D.C. - September 11 2001
* 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, Utah - February 8 - February 24 2002 (Task Forces acted in a supporting role)
* 2005 Hurricane Katrina
* 2006 Hurricane Ernesto
* 2007 Greensburg, Kansas

Task Force locations

The 28 teams of the US&R Task Force program are spread throughout the United States. [cite web | url = http://www.fema.gov/emergency/usr/locations.shtm | title = US&R Task Force Locations | publisher = FEMA | accessdate = August 25 | accessyear = 2006] The teams are identified by the official two-letter U.S. Postal Service state abbreviations followed by the letters TF for Task Force and a sequential number for the number of the task force for that state. For example, the newest task force in the state of California, the San Diego Task Force, is identified as CA-TF8, being the 8th task force to be created in California.
* AZ-TF1 - Phoenix, Arizona - Phoenix Fire Department
* CA-TF1 - Los Angeles, California - Los Angeles City Fire Department
* CA-TF2 - Los Angeles County, California - Los Angeles County Fire Department
* CA-TF3 - Menlo Park, California - Menlo Park Fire Department
* CA-TF4 - Oakland, California - Oakland Fire Department
* CA-TF5 - Orange County, California - Orange County Fire Authority
* CA-TF6 - Riverside, California - Riverside Fire Department
* CA-TF7 - Sacramento, California - Sacramento Fire Department
* CA-TF8 - San Diego, California - San Diego Fire Department
* CO-TF1 - State of Colorado
* FL-TF1 - Miami-Dade County, Florida - Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department
* FL-TF2 - Miami, Florida - Miami Fire Department
* IN-TF1 - Marion County, Indiana
* MD-TF1 - Montgomery County, Maryland - Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service
* MA-TF1 - Beverly, Massachusetts
* MO-TF1 - Boone County, Missouri - Boone County Fire Protection District
* NE-TF1 - Lincoln, Nebraska - Lincoln Fire & Rescue Department
* NV-TF1 - Clark County, Nevada - Clark County Fire Department
* NM-TF1 - State of New Mexico
* NY-TF1 - New York City, New York - Fire Department of New York, New York City Police Department
* OH-TF1 - Miami Valley, Ohio
* PA-TF1 - Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
* TN-TF1 - Memphis, Tennessee - Memphis Fire Services
* TX-TF1 - College Station, Texas - Texas Engineering Extension Service
* UT-TF1 - Salt Lake City, Utah - Unified Fire Authority
* VA-TF1 - Fairfax County, Virginia - Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department
* VA-TF2 - Virginia Beach, Virginia - Virginia Beach Fire Department
* WA-TF1 - Puget Sound region, Washington

The U.S. Army's 911th Engineer Company, modeled on a FEMA USAR Task Force, provides additional response to the National Capital Region.

Task Force equipment

FEMA has created a standardized list of equipment that each Task Force maintains. The 16,400 pieces of equipment are cached and palletized for quick access and transportation. The complete load of equipment weighs 60,000 pounds (27,215 kg) and is designed to be transported by tractor trailer or in the cargo hold of one C-141 transport aircraft or two C-130 transport aircraft.cite web | url = http://www.fema.gov/emergency/usr/equipment.shtm | title = US&R Task Force Equipment | publisher = FEMA | accessdate = August 25 | accessyear = 2006]

The equipment cache allows the Task Force to operate independently for up to four days. The cache contains five categories of equipment: Medical, Search and Rescue, Communications, Technical Support and Logistics.

Medical

The medical portion of the cache includes medical treatment and tools to provide sophisticated medical treatment for victims and task force members, including limited treatment of disaster search canines.cite web | year = 2003 | url = http://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/usr/usr_equip_cache_list.pdf | title = FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2003 - 2004 Equipment Cache List | format = PDF | publisher = FEMA | accessdate = August 28 | accessyear = 2006] The treatment materials are designed to be enough to handle 10 critical cases, 15 moderate cases and 25 minor cases.

Items included in the medical cache are medicines, intravenous fluids, blankets, suture sets, airways, tracheal tubes, defibrillators, burn treatment supplies, bone saws and scalpels. On site, the "durable" medical equipment will stay with the Task Force when patients are transferred to other medical facilities. The local medical facilities must provide their own medical equipment as the equipment may be needed again by the Task Force.

earch and Rescue

The Search and Rescue portion of the cache contains all the equipment that the Search and Rescue teams will need to extricate victims from debris.

Construction type equipment such as concrete saws, jackhammers, drills and rope. Technical rescue type equipment such as lifting airbags, shore systems, and hydraulic rescue tools. Non-reusable shoring material such as lumber and pipe is not included in the cache and is to be found or acquired at the disaster site.

Communications

generators, lights, radios, cellular phones, laptop computers Task Force personnel will be issued portable radios at the point of departure to a disaster and are responsible for that radio until the Task Force returns to the point of departure. The radios operate in the 403-430 MHz range and are capable of pentrating structures and below grade environments (i.e. underground).

Technical support

Snake-like cameras, fiberscopes, sensitive listening devices, measuring devices such as laser rangefinders, strain gauges and levals; audio-visual equipment such as still and video cameras, LCD projectors; haz-mat equipment and support equipment for canines such as kennels, harnesses and sleeping pads.

Logistics

sleeping bags, cots, food and water, as well as cold weather gear, portable toilets, portable showers, safety equipment such as gloves, earplugs, kneepads, respirators and protective eyewear; administrative equipment such as office supplies and reference materials; equipment maintenance materials and Task Force member's personal gear.

References

External links

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