Urban search and rescue (USAR) is a branch of rescue services that prepares to responds to building collapses to rescue entrapped patients. A USAR team is comprised of rescue specialists, hazardous material experts, search dogs and a cadre of specialists to make up a Task Force to respond to building collapses. The USAR function is responsible for building collapse response such as the Oklahoma City Bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and the September 11, 2001 Attacks on the pentagon and the World Trade Center.
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.
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.
Hurricane Katrina - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Hurricane_Katrina
Location of FEMA US&R Teams
FEMA, About US&R, Obtained from http://www.fema.gov/emergency/usr/about.shtm
on April 14, 2012