There is an old saying that's famous in the music world: "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice." It is the same in the fire and emergency services. Unless you are well drilled in the talents of your trade, you stand a great chance of failing when the time comes to do...
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There is an old saying that's famous in the music world: "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice." It is the same in the fire and emergency services. Unless you are well drilled in the talents of your trade, you stand a great chance of failing when the time comes to do your duty. With that in mind, emergency responders in northern New Jersey recently tested their skills and tool operations by conducting a large-scale exercise involving a simulated terrorist incident in a tunnel.
Urban search and rescue (USAR) teams have become one of the critical service delivery elements of the post 9/11 world. It is a given in the emergency services that New York City is a prime target for terrorists to attack. Northern New Jersey is within the operational radius of the area that terrorists see as a target to get the attention of the world.
After the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, an analysis was performed of the region's state of preparedness with regard to man-made and natural disasters. This analysis uncovered a gap in preparedness, finding that the region needed more heavy rescue equipment and trained personnel that could arrive on the scene of an incident quickly.
A proposal to establish the New Jersey Metro Urban Search and Rescue Strike Team was submitted on Feb. 1, 2004, and through federal funding and local planning the team was established on July 31, 2006. The Metro USAR Strike Team (MUST) was put into operation to support the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) for the cities of Newark and Jersey City. In addition, it provides direct assistance to the counties of Essex, Hudson, Bergen, Morris, Passaic, Union and Middlesex, as well as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
It was duly noted that the federal government realized the importance of creating an operational network of trained specialized rescue personnel to handle major emergencies within the region. To that end, the MUST was created to provide a specialized USAR capability in northern New Jersey. The mission of the MUST is to rapidly provide the highest-quality professional USAR response to structural collapse disasters and related events to save lives and reduce property loss. The MUST is trained as one team. Members work together under a defined mutual aid agreement.
It is important to note that all of the major Hudson River crossing points to New York City have one end of their facilities in New Jersey. The following have come together to provide a united capability to handle major emergencies:
- Jersey City
- North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue Department
Thanks to the funding provided by the federal government through its UASI program, one dozen specialized strike force rescue vehicles are available, all of which are equipped with exactly the same equipment tool load. This redundancy in equipment allows for a combination of resources that can be used at the scene of a major emergency.
Over the course of its nearly four years of service to the region, the MUST has conducted a series of major tactical emergency drills. In this way, the many different participants have honed their skills to a fine operational edge. It is critical to note that this development of "local" capabilities is in line with tenets of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) that was created by Presidential Executive Order in 2002.
The 2010 Emergency Response Drill was conducted in Newark April 26–29 to ensure the participation of each of the four working shifts for each fire department. It is also important to note that the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety was also invited to play a role in the command and control operations at this drill (the division is a non-voting member of the MUST). A scenario was created by the Newark Fire Department's Special Operations Division. It was decided that a simulated tunnel emergency would be an excellent mechanism to test the team's skills.