BATON ROUGE, La. - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that the Urban Search and Rescue Operations for the State of Louisiana were completed today. The Search and Rescue Teams have been on duty continuously since Aug. 27, 2005, when three teams were initially deployed just before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Ultimately, the search and rescue operations grew to include more than 3,000 urban search and rescue personnel in 51 task forces, eight swift water teams, and 108 incident support team command staff.
The Urban Search and Rescue teams are deployed during emergencies to rescue and evacuate citizens, search structures, and ensure the health and safety of all citizens and responders. The conditions of the search after Hurricane Katrina were extremely difficult, both physically and psychologically. The operation was conducted with utmost respect for residents and property, despite blistering heat, and with the added impact of Hurricane Rita. A few search and rescue personnel sustained minor injuries; veterinarians attended the minor injuries to search dogs.
The Katrina Unified Search and Rescue Command was made up of teams from 15 states: California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington. Four additional task forces were mobilized in Louisiana for Hurricane Rita: Arizona, Nevada, Ohio, and Tennessee. Agencies also participating were:
- Jefferson Parish Public Safety Agencies
- Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
- Louisiana State Police
- New Orleans Fire Department
- New Orleans Police Department
- EMAC Cooperative Resources
- US Coast Guard
- US Department of Defense
- US Department of Defense National Guard
- Federal Law Enforcement Agencies
- US Department of the Interior
The teams helped 6,582 people reach safety in the hours and days immediately after Hurricane Katrina. Teams later searched 22,313 structures in New Orleans, and more in other Louisiana Parishes to find those trapped or stranded. The teams included air, marine, amphibious and ground personnel deployed to the parishes hit by the hurricanes.
FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Lead in the Field, Dave Webb, said "the National FEMA Urban Search and Rescue system was fully engaged. All players melded into one team and successfully integrated the expertise, strengths, resources, and personnel from civilian and military organizations. Collectively we succeeded where none of us could have succeeded alone."
Incident Support Team Leader, Dewey Perks, said, "The operation clearly illustrated the essence of coordination, communication and cooperation."
The teams in the field also supported the animal rescue operations, helping to locate and extract hundreds of pets left behind by evacuating residents, including a 12-foot boa constrictor.
Urban Search and Rescue operations are conducted to evacuate citizens and search structures. Under rules of engagement set out by the State of Louisiana, two types of searches were carried out by teams: hasty, primary searches and secondary searches. Hasty/primary searches were carried out in Orleans parish from August 30 to September 12. These searches were visual, with hailing calls as searchers moved through areas, no forced entry into a structure without probable cause with a goal of finding and evacuating victims. Secondary searches were conducted from September 12 through 27. As defined by state and local governments, secondary searches were conducted door to door in affected areas where flooding had occurred higher than 5.5 feet above the floor. When a building was entered, damage incurred by access was kept to a minimum and the building was re-secured after the search. New Orlea...