If a disaster event warrants
national US&R support, FEMA will deploy the three closest task forces
within six hours of notification, and additional teams as necessary. The
role of these task forces is to support state and local emergency
responders' efforts to locate victims and manage recovery operations.
Each task force consists of two 31-person teams,
four canines, and a comprehensive equipment cache. US&R task force
members work in four areas of specialization: search, to find victims
trapped after a disaster; rescue, which includes safely digging victims
out of tons of collapsed concrete and metal; technical, made up of
structural specialists who make rescues safe for the rescuers; and
medical, which cares for the victims before and after a rescue.
In addition to search-and-rescue support, FEMA
provides hands-on training in search-and-rescue techniques and
equipment, technical assistance to local communities, and in some cases
federal grants to help communities better prepare for urban
The bottom line in urban search-and-rescue -
someday lives may be saved because of the skills these rescuers gain.
These first responders consistently go to the front lines when America
needs them most. We should be proud to have them as a part of our
Not only are these first
responders a national resource that can be deployed to a major disaster
or structural collapse anywhere in the country. They are also the local
firefighters and paramedics who answer when you call 911 at home in your
Under the National Response Plan, US&R
teams will provide urban search and rescue and life-saving assistance
following major domestic incidents.
In the early 1980s, the Fairfax
County Fire & Rescue and Metro-Dade County Fire Department created elite
search-and-rescue (US&R) teams trained for rescue operations in
collapsed buildings. Working with the United States State Department and
Office of Foreign Disaster Aid, these teams provided vital
search-and-rescue support for catastrophic earthquakes in Mexico City,
the Philippines and Armenia.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
established the National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Response System
in 1989 as a framework for structuring local emergency services
personnel into integrated disaster response task forces.
In 1991, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
incorporated this concept into the Federal Response Plan (now the
National Response Plan), sponsoring 25 national urban search-and-rescue
Events such as the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P.
Murrah building in Oklahoma City, the Northridge earthquake, the Kansas
grain elevator explosion in 1998 and earthquakes in Turkey and Greece in
1999 underscore the need for highly skilled teams to rescue trapped
The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 thrust FEMA's Urban Search and
Rescue (US&R) teams into the spotlight. Their important work transfixed
a world and brought a surge of gratitude and support.
Today there are 28 national task
forces staffed and equipped to conduct round-the-clock search-and-rescue
operations following earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes,
aircraft accidents, hazardous materials spills and catastrophic
structure collapses. These task forces, complete with necessary tools
and equipment, and required skills and techniques, can be deployed by
FEMA for the rescue of victims of structural collapse.
Pennsylvania Task Force One (PA-TF1)
Pennsylvania Task Force (PA-TF1) is one of twenty-eight
certified, operational and deployable federal assets of the National
Urban Search and Rescue System established by the Federal Emergency
Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security.
PA-TF1 is comprised of over 210 personnel from numerous
participating agencies. This includes personnel staffing management,
rescue, medical, search, and technical team positions. At least 70
personnel representing these specialties deploy with the task force.
The Task Force is capable of mobilization from its point of
departure, to any where in the United States within 6 hours of a
request for a disaster response. The task force is self-sufficient
for at least 72 hours. After the first 72 hours, support for the
task force is provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Our personnel respond from across Pennsylvania, Maryland,
Delaware and New Jersey but mostly from within 100 miles of
Harrisburg International Airport.
In 1990, FEMA awarded the opportunity to develop a US&R task force
to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Ridge committed to
bringing PA-TF1 to deployable status after taking office and tasked
PEMA to see that this was accomplished. PEMA secured funding for
training and helped obtain a grant for the City of Harrisburg to
purchase much of the necessary equipment needed for deployment.
With tremendous support from the
participating and sponsoring agencies,
PA-TF1 passed a peer evaluation in the spring of 1996, and
subsequently was declared deployable by the FEMA Director in October
PA-TF1 distinguished itself during deployment in North Carolina
during the 1999 hurricane season and led the specialty response to
the Concept Sciences factory blast in Allentown, PA. In addition,
the Task Force has been operationally deployed to the World Trade
Center, Hurricane Katrina and various National Special Security
Events (NSSEs). The Task Force is available for both in-state and
out-of-state deployment as conditions warrant.