Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Deputy Administrator Rich Serino addressed first responders from around the country at a National Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Response System working group meeting in Boston. Serino discussed the role USAR teams play in responding to catastrophic events and FEMA's coordination with state and local governments on preparedness and response efforts for hurricanes and other emergencies.
"Urban Search and Rescue teams are an excellent example of the federal, state and local levels of government all working together to help keep Americans safe," said Serino. "It was a privilege meeting with the members of the USAR teams, who are ready to deploy at a moment's notice and go a long way toward ensuring we're prepared as a nation to respond to large-scale events."
FEMA has been coordinating with state and local officials and the private sector in preparation for the 2010 hurricane season, which began June 1 and runs to November 30. USAR teams have been critical in several past major hurricane responses, supporting local rescue operations on the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts.
Serino also highlighted the work of FEMA-trained USAR teams in supporting response efforts following the January earthquake in Haiti. Under the direction of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), six FEMA-trained USAR teams deployed to Haiti, joining more than 40 international teams and rescuing more than 130 individuals.
The National USAR Response System is a coordinated, national, all-hazards capability designed to assist state and local governments' response to structural collapse incidents. There are 28 USAR teams composed of approximately 70 highly trained personnel. The system may be activated when the President declares a major disaster or emergency under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act), 42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq, or through interagency agreements with other federal agencies, such as USAID.
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FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.