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  • The National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Response System provides a significant national resource for search and rescue assistance in the wake of a major disaster or structural collapse. A typical US&R task force will conduct physical search and rescue operations, provide emergency medical care to trapped victims, assess and control hazards such as ruptured gas and electric lines, and evaluate and stabilize damaged structures.

  • Due to the critical, life-saving nature of their mission, US&R task forces must be prepared to deploy within six hours of notification, and must be self-sufficient for the first seventy-two hours.

  • US&R teams have been deployed in response to the Japanese and Haiti earthquakes, Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the Oklahoma City bombing, the grain elevator explosion in Wichita, Kansas, and many other foreign and domestic disasters.

  • Each of the twenty-eight US&R task forces consists of two teams of thirty-one or more persons, including fire fighters, engineers, medical professionals, hazardous materials specialists and others with special expertise. To ensure a full team can deploy to an emergency, a typical task force has more than 130 members.

  • In addition to personnel, each task force includes four canines and a comprehensive equipment cache to support its operations. A typical US&R cache includes tools, heavy rescue equipment, medical supplies, hazardous materials support equipment, canine support equipment, and communications equipment.

  • In 2006, the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated the annual and recurring cost for each task force to be approximately $1.7 million. Today, in many jurisdictions the cost exceeds $2 million. In addition to program management costs, this estimate includes expenses for training, exercises, medical monitoring of personnel, and equipment maintenance and storage.

  • Current federal funding for the nation’s US&R teams only provides a fraction of the funds necessary to maintain each task force, leaving local government sponsors to pick up the remainder of the cost.

  • Even if legislation authorizing additional funding for the US&R system is enacted, Congress must provide additional funding through appropriations to deliver such funds to local US&R teams.

  • Tight local budgets due to the recent recession have left many local government sponsors unable to subsidize crucial US&R functions such as training, significantly straining task forces’ readiness and capabilities.

  • Subsidizing US&R task forces at the local level also has a negative impact on community preparedness by diverting funds from local emergency services budgets.

  • The recent earthquake in Haiti and the subsequent response underscore the importance of the national search and rescue capability. Increasing federal funding for the Urban Search and Rescue Response System will help ensure that highly skilled teams are available to respond to major emergencies without jeopardizing local emergency services.

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