SAR in the city (USAR)
The National Response Plan for disasters was formed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 1991, and FEMA sponsors 25 national USAR task teams. FEMA dispatches the three nearest USAR teams within six hours of being informed of a domestic catastrophe; additional units will be sent if required. The following are examples of urban disasters:
- Floods \sEarthquakes
- A plane has crashed.
- Spills of hazardous materials
- Catastrophic collapses of structures
USAR troops assist local and state emergency response systems, which take the lead. Two 31-person teams and four SAR dogs make up each USAR task force.
The USAR teams are educated in four areas of expertise:
Finding catastrophe victims is a search that takes time and effort, and rescue entails removing the victims from the scene.
Technical – assuring the rescuers’ safety with the assistance of structural experts
Medical help is provided to injured victims and rescuers.
Following the events of September 11, the United States launched the largest USAR mission in its history. Terrorists used commercial jetliners to bring down the Twin Towers in New York City on that day, leaving injured people buried beneath millions of pounds of rubble. Twenty FEMA USAR teams were dispatched to New York to rescue and collect the survivors. SAR dogs were an important part of the rescue operations at ground zero, with more than 80 on duty, making it the largest deployment of rescue dogs in US history. Dogs were assigned to 12-hour shifts with equal rest and search time. (For additional information on SAR dogs, see How Search-and-Rescue Dogs Work.) To aid in the hunt for survivors, rescuers deployed electronic listening devices and search cameras.
For the SAR effort on September 11, many additional professionals were dispatched. Cranes and bulldozers were used to move large slabs of concrete and steel, and heavy-rigging professionals were in charge of the operation. Hazardous materials experts were on hand to ensure the rescue workers’ and dogs’ safety. Logistics professionals managed the rescue effort with thousands of volunteers on-site to ensure that everything went well.
Equipment for the United States Army Reserve
In an urban setting, search-and-rescue operations provide a specific problem. It’s not a single survivor stranded in the seas or a wandering traveler lost in the woods. Disasters like September 11 and Hurricane Katrina provide a wide range of challenges that need a large amount of equipment and people who know how to use it. To say that an urban search-and-rescue operation’s equipment cache is massive. The equipment list for the USAR task force is more than 60 pages long and comprises over 2,000 items [source: FEMA]. Everything from structural shoring equipment to dog food and port-a-potties is on the list.
The days of lifting automobiles and concrete pieces off a wounded person using jacks are long gone. USAR teams are using airbag lifting mechanisms to complete the job. The flat Kevlar bags are placed beneath the heavy object and inflated using an air pump. The most deluxe bag systems can lift to 70 tonnes 20 inches off the ground [source: Simplex]. Shoring equipment and the lifters are required to ensure that the pathways the teams construct are stable and safe to go through.
Any USAR operation requires traditional heavy demolition and construction equipment. On-site tools include concrete saws, jackhammers, chainsaws, and hand tools such as pry bars, axes, and bolt cutters. USAR crews employ heavy-rigging equipment such as chains, cables, anchors, and rope-hauling systems to remove heavier sections of a collapsed structure. The huge amount of trash is transported carefully and safely by connecting it to bulldozers and cranes. Laser range finders and wind detectors are available to evaluate distances and monitor conditions on-site. Heavy winds might cause a search to be delayed since they can jeopardize the structure’s stability and the search team’s safety.