Posted by: Bob Fenton, Assistant Administrator, Response Directorate
At the request of the New Zealand government, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), a team that includes the Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue team (US&R), also known as California Task Force 2 (CA-TF2), to assist with the search and rescue efforts.
You may remember the LA County US&R team from this YouTube video that was taken in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in early 2010.
You often hear US&R and FEMA in the same sentence, and the reason is because FEMA has developed disaster response agreements with 28 urban search and rescue teams located in various cities throughout the United States. The teams are locally managed but FEMA provides funding and program development support for the teams.
Two of these teams are classified under United Nations Guidelines for international response. The two USAID-sponsored international classified teams are USA-TF2 (CA-TF2) and USA-TF1 (Virginia Task Force 1, VA-TF1) from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. These “international teams” have direct agreements with USAID, and it is under this agreement and the direction of USAID that CA-TF2 is being deployed to New Zealand.
Ever wonder what a US&R team base of operations looks like? Administrator Fugate and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah got a tour on a visit to Haiti in the aftermath of the quake that struck there last year.
What is a National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Force?
The 28 National US&R Task Forces, made up of teams of state and local first responders, can be activated for major disasters to assist in rescuing victims of structural collapse incidents or to assist in other search and rescue missions.
All 28 teams are “Type I task forces,” which are made up of around 70 multi-faceted, cross-trained personnel who serve in six major functional areas, including search, rescue, medical, hazardous materials, logistics and planning. In addition, they are supported by canines that are specially trained and qualified to be able to conduct physical search and heavy rescue operations in damaged or collapsed reinforced concrete buildings.
Each task force can be divided into two 35-member teams to provide 24-hour search and rescue operations. Self-sufficient for the initial 72 hours or more, the task forces are equipped with convoy vehicles to support over the road deployments and their equipment caches can be quickly reconfigured to be able to deploy by military or commercial airlift. The task forces can also be configured into Light Task Forces to support weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes and other similar incidents.