In August of 2018, the IAFC created an Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Committee. This committee is comprised of local, state, and national-level subject matter experts. One of their first initiatives is to develop a catalog of all search and rescue resources in the United States.
Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) is a multi-hazard discipline that involves the location, extrication, and initial medical stabilization of victims trapped or missing because of a man-made or natural disaster, with a primary focus on structural collapse operations. While a tornado or other significant weather event is often the cause, victims can also be trapped by events such as winter storms, mine or bridge collapses, wide-area flooding, or many other significant events. These events can occur in rural areas, suburban areas, or in densely populated urban areas. They may be slow in developing, as in the case of winter storms or wide area river flooding, or they may be sudden, as in the case of an earthquake, explosion, or tornado.
Since these types of catastrophic events can quickly overwhelm first responders, there must be a comprehensive nationwide response system in place that can quickly provide resources for search and rescue operations that are beyond the capabilities of local responders.
Beginning in early February 2020, the IAFC US&R Committee, in partnership with the FEMA US&R branch and the State Urban Search and Rescue (SUSAR) Alliance, is embarking on a comprehensive effort to gather and update current contact information and catalog the location and type of deployable search and rescue resources that can be available to respond to a catastrophic event in the United States.
The committee has developed a tool, essentially an Excel spreadsheet, that they will use to collect the appropriate data. Representatives from the FEMA US&R branch at FEMA headquarters, each of the ten FEMA Regions, and the State Urban Search and Rescue Alliance will be assisting in pushing this data request out to the local agencies that manage the resource. Ensuring that localities understand that the National Response Framework mandates tiered response to all expanding incidents, this tool becomes an invaluable resource as all emergencies begin at the local level and expand from there.
The initial focus of this effort will gather information on four (4) primary types of search and rescue resources, all of which are typed according to the current NIMS Resource Typing Definitions for Mass Search and Rescue Operations.
Those resources include:
- Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Force (Types 1-4)
- Structural Collapse Rescue Team (Types 1-3)
- Structural Collapse Search Team (Types 1-3)
- Swiftwater/Flood Search & Rescue Team (Types 1-4)
Information being collected includes the location of the resource, primary and secondary contact information, and the specific resource type that is available in each state.
The assistance of the IAFC membership is requested to ensure that we indeed have developed a comprehensive catalog of search and rescue resources that can be used in a catastrophic event. If your agency has one of these US&R or specialized water rescue resources, please inquire and coordinate with your appropriate state agency about this information request. Your participation and assistance will lead to a safer and more resilient nation. Any questions can be forwarded to Fire Chief Dave Downey, IAFC US&R Committee chair at ChiefDowneyDC@gmail.com.
Dave Downey is a 37-year veteran of the fire service retiring as the fire chief of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue in May 2019. Downey serves Chair of the IAFCs US&R Committee, the Chair of NFPA 1710, and a Technical Committee member on NFPA 3000. Chief Downey is also a member of National Fire Protection Association, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, and the Florida Fire Chief’s Association.