Boston, MA -- The FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Massachusetts Task Force 1 was welcomed back to its home base with a ceremony held Tuesday, September 18, at the FEMA Training Site in the City of Beverly.
A large delegation of family and friends was on hand to cheer the 74-person, five-dog Massachusetts team, which was among the first to be deployed to the World Trade Center disaster site in New York on September 11. Massachusetts US&R task force members are from cities and towns throughout New England, as follows: Massachusetts (56), Rhode Island (5), Maine (5), Connecticut (4), New Hampshire (3), and Vermont (1).
Gov. Jane Swift opened the ceremony, which was emceed by Beverly Mayor William F. Scanlon, Jr. As the first person to officially welcome the Task Force home, she thanked them on behalf of the Commonwealth for their dedication and for making America proud."
Under the direction of the City of New York Fire Department, the Massachusetts US&R team worked 12-hour shifts assisting in rescue efforts. Their assigned area was the corner of Church and Dey Streets.
U.S. Congressman, 6th District, John Tierney told team members that they stood up and did what we all wish we could have done, while State Representative Michael P. Cahill singled out the task force family members as American heroes for being willing to share them with a stricken nation.
On behalf of FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh, Acting Regional Director Kenneth L. Horak called team members heroes of our time and expressed the agency's gratitude, saying that of all past deployments, "this one was their most daunting task yet."
In recent years, these past deployments have included the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 1999 Worcester fire.
Last, but not least, Massachusetts Task Force Leader Mark Foster thanked the City of New York police and fire departments and the families whose extreme sacrifices made it possible for his team to participate in the rescue effort, along with everyone who had come here this day. "It's great to be home. God bless America," he said.
The FEMA US&R Response System, which structured local emergency services personnel into integrated disaster response task forces, was established in 1989. Each task force is made up of volunteers from local fire departments, law enforcement agencies, federal and local governmental agencies, and private companies. At the present time, there are 28 task forces nationwide, each self-sufficient for the first 72 hours of deployment.
Most task force members are emergency medical technicians and complete several hundred hours of training related to their specific specialty. This could involve physical search and rescue in collapsed buildings; administering emergency medical care to trapped victims; assessing and controlling gas, electric service and hazardous materials; and evaluating and stabilizing damaged structures.
The task force uses electronic listening devices, search cameras and specially trained search dogs to locate victims. The equipment to support a task force weighs almost 60,000 pounds, is worth approximately $1.4 million, and includes a fully stocked mobile emergency room.