SUSAR: Your Friendly Neighborhood US&R Team

It is 10:00 am on a Wednesday, and you are sitting in your shift commander’s office looking at the local weather report as the news staff discuss the significant winter storm that is hitting your response area. Your tones drop, and the overhead...

Search Specialists will begin to search the pile, with high-tech cameras and listening devices, canine resources, and tools to converge on any potential space where a victim could be located (see Photo 2). They will also map out the area of damage, mark victim locations, and develop maps and support documents for traversing the affected area.

Rescue Specialists go to work where the search specialists and the canines confirm a location of a victim. The process of cutting, breaking, and burning through mountains of rubble in a systematic method so as not to further injury is bestowed on these experts (see Photo 3).

Safety Specialists are continually traversing the pile and the surrounding areas, checking for potential hazards that may come from compromised structures, changes in atmospheric conditions, and personnel safety issues as well.

Medical Specialists go in with the search, rescue, and safety personnel and provide patient stabilization and initial care for the victims who are being removed from the pile. This component consists not only of EMTs and paramedics, but highly trained doctors and nurses as well.

HazMat Specialists begin to evaluate the atmospheric conditions of the site and continue this evaluation throughout the event. As the incident progresses, the atmosphere can change and these experts are the first line of defense for the responders (see Photo 4).

Rigging Specialists supply heavy machinery and crane support for the operation, and are the focal point of direction for these resources. Many a time it is necessary to move a very large chunk of debris, instead of breaching through it. These folks are the ones for the job.

Technical Information Specialists are charged with the responsibility to keep the lines of communications open between the incident commanders and the troops on the ground. Whether it is through written documentation or open radio airwaves, these professionals keep everyone talking on the scene.

Logistics Specialists are the go-to personnel for any US&R operation, for anything, period. These personnel are responsible for packaging, shipping, deploying, repairing, procuring, returning, and restocking all resources that are needed at the incident. From setting up a Base of Operation, to bringing it all back home, these experts get the job done.

In case you are wondering if this list describes the FEMA resources or the SUSAR resources, you are right; it describes both types of resources. In fact, most State US&R teams have deliberately equipped and staffed their components to mirror the FEMA task forces (see Photo 5).

The SUSAR Association is focused on more than just response issues. The association has groups that work toward a standardized typing and credentialing agreement, training recommendations, and work groups in specific rescue-response disciplines. Some teams have also sent members to cross-train with other SUSAR teams, providing cost savings to local taxpayers by coordinating training, operational guidelines, and specifications throughout the organization’s member teams. Furthermore, there is an e-group that all members have access to, furthering the networking capabilities of all involved. Information from members of NFPA committees that pertain to US&R operations and training are available in this group, as well as members of local and federal response organizations that share a common goal of keeping all US&R responses professional and effectual.


The emergency services are faced with providing the safest, most efficient and professional response to all types of incidents and disasters, all while working within the same budgetary restrictions that are effecting everyone nationwide. It is of the utmost importance that all response organizations reach out and identify who these responders are, where they are coming from, and how to request them in the event of an emergency. With a little research and resource gathering, you may find out that a specialized, highly trained and skillful resource is available when you really need it, and a lot closer than you think.

Until next time, stay focused and stay safe.