With the recent deployments of California FEMA US&R task forces to help with those affected by the earthquake in Haiti and the eminent sizeable rainfall predicted in the region, the RTFs could be requested for mutual aid assistance if the rain does in fact cause problems and for any other types of situations that may require a team of technical experts with their specialized equipment, now or in the future.
Recently a Mobilization Exercise (MOBEX) of two Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Regional Task Forces (RTFs), comprised of 29 highly trained members was conducted at the Long Beach (CA) Fire Training Center. The MOBEX involved members of the Office of Emergency Services (OES) (US&R) RTF 2 comprised of (Area E – Vernon, Downey, Montebello, Santa Fe Springs, and Compton) and RTF 3 (Area F – Long Beach) with air support provided from the United States Coast Guard and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Airship 5.
The drill included multiple complex dispatch locations: Port of Long Beach, Downey Studios, and the Long Beach Fire Training Center. The drill simulated multiple large debris flows through urban areas with a large life hazard following significant rainstorms. The two RTFs were dispatched with the goal of a 45 minute assembly/response time. The RTF’s goal is to somewhat bridge the gap between the local first responders, and the 12-hour minimum response time of the larger Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Task Forces. Both RTF’s gathered at the Long Beach Fire Training Center to establish a Base of Operations (BOO).
The drill emphasized the abilities of these teams to conduct Reconnaissance and Search multiple affected areas, both on the ground and from air support, and to prioritize (triage) their rescue efforts. Search teams were comprised of Technical Search Specialists, Rescue Specialists, Structural Specialists, K9 Specialists, and Medical Specialists. Once victims were located, they were triaged, extricated (if necessary), and treated for their injuries.
Some victims were located and rescued with the use of search dogs, while others required complex rope systems and even air support to transport them to safety. Interoperability played a key part in the team’s success in completing the complex rescue tasks. More than 60 members participated and many lessons were learned.
The drill concluded with a critique and will be followed by a formal After Action Report. This report will detail the objectives of the MOBEX, reinforce the strengths of the teams, and identify areas that can still be improved. In the future, more of these drills will be conducted an at least an annual basis to ensure these teams are at their most efficient and capable levels.