California Deploying Specialized Urban Search and Rescue Resources to Surfside, Florida


Urban Search and Rescue

At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Governor Gavin Newsom through the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) approved the deployment of California-based Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Resources that are a part of the FEMA US&R Incident Support Team, to assist the state of Florida at the Surfside Tower collapse. The collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium killed at least 22 people, with another 126 still unaccounted for.

The California personnel deploying to Surfside come from four of the eight California-based state/national Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces. A total of five Incident Support Team Members are from California-FEMA US&R Task Force 4 (City of Oakland Fire Department), California FEMA US&R Task Force 5 (Orange County Fire Authority), California FEMA US&R Task Force 7 (Sacramento City Fire Department), and California FEMA US&R Task Force 8 (San Diego Fire-Rescue Department).

In addition, two Structural Specialists from California FEMA US&R Task Force 5 (Orange County Fire Department) and two from Task Force 7 (Sacramento City Fire Department) will also deploy.

This personnel is part of the National US&R Response System and the State Fire & Rescue Mutual Aid System. There are 28 National FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces within the continental United States, with eight located in the state of California. In California, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, Fire and Rescue, Special Operations Branch coordinates the California US&R Program.

Other California based State/FEMA Task Forces include:

  • CA Task Force 1 Los Angeles City Fire
  • CA Task Force 2 Los Angeles County Fire
  • CA Task Force 3 Menlo Park Fire Protection District
  • CA Task Force 4 Oakland Fire Department
  • CA Task Force 5 Orange County Fire Authority
  • CA Task Force 6 Riverside City Fire Department
  • CA Task Force 7 Sacramento City Fire Department
  • CA Task Force 8 San Diego Fire – Rescue Department

Cal OES continues to monitor operations and requests for resources for Surfside, Florida.


Since 1992, California-based US&R Task Forces and/or US&R overhead personnel; have been deployed to numerous state, national, and international disasters including Hurricane Iniki (1992), the 1994 Northridge earthquake, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 2004 Hurricanes Charlie, Frances, and Ivan, 2005 Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and Dennis, 2007 Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, 2008 Hurricane Dolly, 2010 Haiti Earthquake, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake in New Zealand, 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, 2011 Hurricane Irene, 2012 Hurricane/Super Storm Sandy, the 2014 Oso landslide disaster in Washington State, the 2014 flooding in Colorado, the 2015 Nepal Earthquake, the 2017 Mexico City earthquake, Hurricanes Earl, Mathew, Harvey, Maria (2017), Irma, lane, Olivia, and Michael, and 2020 Puerto Rico Earthquake.

US&R involves the location, rescue (extrication), and initial medical stabilization of victims trapped in confined spaces. Structural collapse is most often the cause of victims being trapped, but victims may also be trapped in transportation accidents, mines and collapsed trenches. Urban search and rescue is considered a “multi-hazard” discipline, as it may be needed for a variety of emergencies or disasters, including earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, storms and tornadoes, floods, dam failures, technological accidents, terrorist activities, and hazardous materials releases.