There are many participants in the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System. These participants can be grouped into three main categories.
- FEMA - establishes policy and leads the coordination of the national system
- Task Forces - there are 28 FEMA US&R Task Forces spread throughout the continental United States trained and equipped by FEMA to handle structural collapse.
- Incident Support Teams - support the US&R Task Forces in accomplishing their mission through logistical, electronic and coordination expertise.
For every US&R task force, there are 62 positions. But to be sure a full team can respond to an emergency, a typical task force has at the ready more than 130 highly-trained members.
These teams, comprised of firefighters, engineers, medical professionals, canine/handler teams and emergency managers with special training in urban search-and-rescue environments, serve as a national resource for disaster response. The task force is really a partnership between state fire departments, law enforcement agencies, federal and local governmental agencies and private companies.
A task force is totally self-sufficient for the first 72 hours of a deployment.
What the task force can do:
- Conduct physical search and rescue in collapsed buildings
- Provide emergency medical care to trapped victims
- Mobilize search-and-rescue dogs
- Support assessment and control of gas, electric service and hazardous materials
- Provide evaluation and stabilization of damaged structures
The National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Incident Support Team (IST) provides a group of highly qualified specialists readily available for rapid assembly and deployment to a disaster area. The IST furnishes federal, state, tribal and local officials with technical assistance in acquiring and using US&R resources. It provides advice, Incident Command assistance, management, and coordination of US&R Task Forces, and US&R logistics support. The IST is organized according to basic Incident Command System (ICS) guidelines, with an IST Command and Command Staff and Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance and Administration Sections. There are three rostered IST-A teams in the National US&R Response System.