At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Governor Gavin Newsom, through the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), has approved the deployment of five Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Forces and two California-based US&R Water Rescue “Mission Ready Packages” (Teams) to support search and rescue operations as Hurricane Dorian approaches the coast of the US mainland. As a component of the National US&R Response System, the personnel hail from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, the Sacramento City Fire Department, the City of Oakland Fire Department, Los Angeles City Fire Department, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and Cal OES Fire & Rescue.
Each Task Force consists of 35 highly trained search and rescue specialists, including K-9s and medical personnel. They will serve as a part of the National US&R Response System assisting local first responders in Hurricane Dorian’s impacted areas. Cal OES is also sending an assistant chief from their Special Operations Unit for coordination and to act as a state agency representative. In addition to this large deployment of US&R personnel, the activation will include two Water Rescue Teams and equipment from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and Orange County Fire Authority.
Last week Cal OES coordinated with FEMA to pre-position two US&R Incident Support Teams from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District and the Orange County Fire Authority in San Juan, Puerto Rico in anticipation of Dorian making landfall there. During the deployment of the US&R Task Forces, specialists will use their knowledge, skills and disaster response experience to assist in the coordination of state/federal US&R teams, and conduct search and rescue operations in support of local authorities.
During the hurricane seasons of 2017 and 2018, Cal OES supported the deployment of all eight California-based state/national US&R Task Forces collectively to North Carolina for Hurricane Florence; Texas for Hurricane Harvey; Alabama and Florida for Hurricane Irma; Hawaii for Hurricanes Lane and Olivia; Florida for Hurricane Michael; and Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands for Hurricane Maria (and concurrent to hurricane search & rescue operations in the U.S., California US&R Task Force 2, L.A. County Fire Department, also was deployed to the Mexico City earthquake, known as the Puebla earthquake, in September 2017). In July 2019, Cal OES supported the deployment of California-based US&R Incident Support Team members to Louisiana for the landfall of Hurricane Barry.
Since 1992, California-based US&R Task Forces and/or overhead personnel have been deployed to numerous other 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 Sandy, 2014 Oso landslide disaster in Washington State, 2014 flooding in Colorado, 2015 Nepal Earthquake, and 2016 Hurricanes Earl and Matthew.
The State of Florida is also receiving US&R resources from Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas, New York, Missouri, Massachusetts, Utah, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada.