California Sends Urban Search and Rescue, Water Rescue Teams to the Atlantic Coast to Support Hurricane Florence Response

At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. has approved the deployment of Water Rescue elements of five California Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Forces through the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). These resources and personnel will aid in the response to Hurricane Florence, headed for the Atlantic Coast.

The deployment includes portions of US&R Task Force 1 (CA-TF1) from Los Angeles Fire Department, responding to Virginia; CA-TF2 from Los Angeles County Fire Department, deploying to North Carolina; CA-TF4 from Oakland Fire Department to North Carolina; CA-TF5 from Orange County Fire Authority deploying to Virginia; and CA-TF7, Sacramento Fire Department deploying to North Carolina.

This is the third time in weeks that California Urban Search & Rescue Task Forces have been dispatched to hurricanes. CA-TF3 (Menlo Park Fire Protection District) and CA-TF8 (San Diego Fire & Rescue Department), with elements of CA-TF 6 (Riverside Fire Department), have responded to the Hawaiian islands twice in the past month to Hurricane Lane and current operations at Hurricane Olivia.

“As part of the national Urban Search and Rescue system, in addition to the multiple US&R Task Forces operating in Hawaii for Hurricane Olivia, California is also now providing some more of its Urban Search and Rescue resources to assist the Atlantic Coast states as powerful Hurricane Florence approaches,” said Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci. “And even with these California-based resources operating on hurricanes impacting the United States from both the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, Cal OES ensures there is a robust Urban Search and Rescue response capability ready to go for any disasters in the state.”

During this deployment to the mid-Atlantic Coast states, California personnel will use their highly-developed skills to assist emergency operations in and around the hardest hit areas based on priorities and direction of state and local officials to assist with search and rescue operations.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, forecasts Hurricane Florence to make landfall in the Carolinas as a very strong Category 4 hurricane.

All 5 California US&R Task Forces are deploying as 16-member “Water Rescue Packages,” which are the equivalent of nationally typed water rescue teams. These teams are part of the network of eight State/Federal US&R Task Forces based in California. They are highly-specialized search and rescue teams that can perform in structural collapse, handle heavy rigging, specialized search functions and operate in swiftwater and flood disaster environments. California’s response system also includes 12 Regional Urban Search & Rescue Task Forces that are strategically located across the state for rapid response to disasters in California.

Since 1992, California-based State/National US&R Task Forces have been deployed to a long list of other state, national, and even international disasters including 2017’s Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, 1992 Hurricane Iniki (Hawaii), the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami catastrophe, last year’s earthquake disaster near Mexico City, and the 2015 Nepal Earthquake.

For more information follow this link: Cal OES Special Operations

Shawn Boyd

Shawn Boyd joined Cal OES as a public information officer in 2014 after a 20-year career in television news as a reporter, anchor and executive producer. He's a Cal State Sacramento alum and former US Navy yeoman and Air Force brat.

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