The U.S. Conference of Mayors


WHEREAS, in the early 1980s, the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue and Metro-Dade County Fire Department created elite search-andrescue (US&R) teams trained for rescue operations in collapsed buildings, and working with the U.S. State Department and Office of Foreign Disaster Aid, these task forces provided vital search-and-rescue support for catastrophic earthquakes in Mexico City, the Philippines and Armenia; and

WHEREAS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established the National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Response System in 1989 as a consequence of the Loma Prieta earthquake, establishing a framework for structuring local emergency services personnel into integrated disaster response task forces; and

WHEREAS, in 1991, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) incorporated this concept into the Federal Response Plan (now the National Response Plan), sponsoring 25 national urban search-and-rescue task forces; and

WHEREAS, today there are 28 US&R task forces hosted by local governments throughout the country; and

WHEREAS, each US&R task force is staffed by at least 70 local firefighters and paramedics with highly specialized training in engineering, emergency medicine, canine handling, firefighting, hazardous materials handling, communications, logistics, and other areas; and

WHEREAS, US&R task forces are equipped to conduct round-theclock search-and-rescue operations following earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, aircraft accidents, hazardous materials spills, incidents involving weapons of mass destruction, and catastrophic structure collapses; and

WHEREAS, US&R task forces must continue training and evaluation to maintain FEMA accreditation status; and

WHEREAS, FEMA can deploy and direct US&R task forces nationally and internationally for the rescue of victims of structural collapse; and

WHEREAS, the successful deployments of US&R task forces after Hurricane Katrina, the terrorist attacks of 2001, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, and other disasters have drawn national attention and highlighted their value to the national response system; and

WHEREAS, the individual local governments that employ US&R task force members and sponsor their participation have been the primary source of funding to maintain those national assets; and

WHEREAS, creating permanent funding authorization for the US&R task forces, each a national asset, will provide the necessary stability to ensure they are available to assist in times of natural and/or man-made disasters,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the U.S. Conference of Mayors supports an explicit authorization of the Urban Search and Rescue Program within the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and providing for grants to task forces that ensure equipment, operational, administrative, and training costs continue to be met; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the U.S. Conference of Mayors urges inclusion of a provision that, for any US&R task force member who suffers personal injury, illness, disability, or death as a result of performance of duties during a FEMA deployment, requires the Federal Government to reimburse the state or local employer for the value of any workers compensation benefits paid; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the Congress to fully fund the operation and maintenance of US&R Task Forces as essential national emergency response assets.

2007 The U.S. Conference of Mayors
Tom Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Tel. 202.293.7330 ~ Fax 202.293.2352