Urban Search & Rescue: Behind the Headlines

We have all seen the images across the news: pictures of rescuers and support personnel carrying victims, both lifeless and animated, from the rubble piles of natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tornadoes, as well as acts of terrorism. This is...

While preparing for deployments remains a paramount responsibility, consider the annual lists of updated training that all of the USAR components perform during the course of 12 months. The range or training varies from search equipment usage, radio and communications updates, atmospheric monitoring equipment testing and calibration, shoring and bracing, lifting and moving, breaking and breaching and even oxy/acetylene torch works.

All of this training requires resources to be prepared, not only for deployments, but for refresher training. The same stresses placed on equipment during deployments is applied to the equipment during training operations (see photo 4). Once the classes are over, the work of cleaning, servicing and preparing the equipment begins in order for the response cache to be ready for deployment at a moment’s notice.

The Calling Of a “Logistician”

I have served as an evaluator when our task force held evaluations for potential new members. One constant in this process is that well over 90 percent of candidates try out for a spot as a Rescue Specialist. Very few come to the evaluation looking for a spot in Logistics. When talking to some of our Logistics personnel, they like it that way, and for good reason – our Logistics personnel are very open to new members of their component, but one characteristic that most Logisticians agree on is that in order to be efficient in Logistics, personnel must spend time in another component before joining Logistics.

Some of our Logistics personnel started out on rescue squads, and in some cases, served as squad officers. This experience allowed them to gain the experience of the needs and requirements of “working the pile,” so to speak. Being in the arena performing the work on a deployment has given them a greater understanding of how the equipment works, applications for all of the equipment, potential failures of the equipment and their components and additional support equipment and tools that would be needed in the field should the tool become damaged.

Also, the potential for continuing education on the tools and equipment in the cache from manufacturers assists in making them the “subject-matter expert” when it comes to operating and maintaining the equipment. Improvements and upgrades to the tool cache can be better judged prior to purchase and acquisition by Logistics members with the proven training and experience from that specific component.


In his book Engineering Practical Rope Rescue Systems, Mike Brown discusses the “Team Efficiency Concept” and stresses the overall importance of getting the team members to “buy in” to the concept. In the emergency services, there are very few, if any, tasks that can be accomplished by a single person; in USAR, every operation is accomplished by members who embrace the “team concept.”

So the next time the news media show a video or pictures of a victim being released from the clutches of devastation, consider the steps that made those images possible. Preparation, planning, monitoring, searching, communicating, treating, lifting, shoring, breaking and breaching – many hands were involved in moving that victim to safety beyond those carrying the litter.

Author’s note: I would be remiss if I did not thank those who provided great insight for this article and continue to stand at the ready for when the time comes that we are called into action. A great amount of thanks, respect and true admiration go to the greatest “Logisticians/Magicians” I know: Joe Ward, Lenny Dotson, Jason Palmer, Walt Milne and the supporting staff with NJ-TF1. Their commitment and dedication to the mission serves as inspiration to those who honorably stand alongside each of them.

MICHAEL P. DALEY is a lieutenant and training officer with the Monroe Township, NJ, Fire District No. 3, and is an instructor with the Middlesex County Fire Academy, where he is responsible for rescue training curriculum development. Mike has an extensive background in fire service operations and holds degrees in business management and public safety administration. Mike serves as a rescue officer with the New Jersey Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 and is a managing member for Fire Service Performance Concepts, a consultant group that provides assistance and support to fire departments with their training programs and course development. Mike has been guest on several Firehouse.com podcasts including:Successful Rescue Operations in Today's Fire ServicePreparing for Tomorrow's RIT Deployment Today and Basement Fire Tactics Roundtable podcasts. View all of Michael's articles and podcasts here. You can reach Michael by e-mail at: FSEducator@aol.com.