Tips to coordinate a helpful and safe search effort

We have all seen the images across the news: rescuers and support personnel carrying victims, both lifeless and animated, from the rubble piles of natural disasters, acts of terrorism, earthquakes and tornadoes. This is not for everybody; there are...


We have all seen the images across the news: rescuers and support personnel carrying victims, both lifeless and animated, from the rubble piles of natural disasters, acts of terrorism, earthquakes and tornadoes. This is not for everybody; there are reasons they are called “Special Operations.” These responses push rescuers through exhaustion, frustration and jubilation throughout the deployment. The people who fill these positions are driven and committed to stand vigilant in times of tragedy and heartbreak.

What continually gets missed in these stories, however, is the preparation, coordination and maintenance necessary to keep urban search and rescue (USAR) task forces ready to respond at a moment’s notice.

Many tasks must be accomplished on-scene to lead up to the images we see on the news. Planning specialists gather and coordinate vital information in the development of the Task Force Tactical Action Plan. Hazardous materials specialists make their way into the scene, confirming the safety of the atmosphere the victims are potentially located. Search specialists comb the pile with cameras and canine companions that can find even the significantly entombed victims. Structures specialists evaluate the debris and recommend types of shoring and their specific locations in order to keep the victims and the responders safe while they are operating. Medical Specialists provide critical care and life-saving procedures to the injured while operations continue in the arena. Rescue Specialists perform the sometimes intricate task of disentanglement and extraction of victims from the remains of the debris. But there is a significant position on this team that makes all of the above-mentioned operations possible: logistics.

Logistics assignments

One of the many considerations that logistics specialists are responsible for is to make sure the USAR tool and equipment cache is kept in a state of constant readiness. This responsibility is defined in the USAR “Task Force Position Description” as:

  • Coordinating the packaging and transporting, distribution and maintenance of the task force equipment cache prior, during and subsequent to mission assignments
  • Coordinating with officials for transportation needs, including personnel
  • Procuring equipment as directed by the logistics manager
  • Ensuring accountability and security of the task force cache
  • Maintain timely records and reports
  • Adhering to all safety procedures
  • Maintaining and repairing the task force equipment cache
  • Assisting with the management of task force facilities and fleets

Logistics managers must be proficient in all of the previously mentioned responsibilities, and are also responsible for:

  • Completing all task force transportation documents
  • Coordinating and managing all Logistics activities
  • Conducting performance evaluations for all personnel
  • Coordinating unit needs with the IST (Incident Support Team) Logistics Section on task force issues
  • Managing the task force transportation fleet

Logistics training and responsibilities

All members of the USAR team are required to complete the Structural Collapse Operations training program to be able to perform at an incident. Each component has continued training throughout the year, and there are additional mandatory training classes for members. In the case of logistics, there are classes that include:

  • DHS/FEMA National USAR Response System GPS Awareness Level course
  • DHS/FEMA National USAR Response System Logistics Specialist course
  • Maintain certification as a Certifying Official for Transportation Requirements and Regulations—both air and ground
  • ICS-300 in accordance with the National Standard Curriculum Training Development Guidance

There also is optional training in the field of logistics, which include Base Camp Manager, Security Manager, Ordering Manager, Forklift Operator, Ground Support Unit Leader, Food Unit Leader and Facility Unit Leader, to name just a few.

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