The National Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) Response System, established under the authority of FEMA in 1989, is a framework for organizing federal, state and local emergency response teams as integrated federal disaster response task forces. The System’s 28 US&R task forces can be deployed by FEMA to a disaster area to provide assistance in structural collapse rescue and wide-area searches.
The task forces are equipped and ready to deploy within six hours of activation. When federal support is anticipated prior to an event such as a hurricane, System resources are often pre-positioned along with other federal responders to expedite support following the disaster.
Role of the Canine
Canine search teams play a critical role in supporting local and state response efforts with the capability to locate disaster survivors and human remains using canine teams (dog and human handler).
Canine search teams are trained to work and detect in any environment and are not limited by noise, equipment or distractions.
Due to their heightened sense of smell, dogs can detect live human scent, even if a survivor is buried deep in rubble.
The canine teams specialize in two key areas: detecting survivors (live find search) and detecting people who are deceased (human remains detection).
Each canine has a trained handler.
At least four canine search teams deploy with each 70-member, Type 1 US&R task force.
The most common breeds in the system are Labrador, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Malinois, and Border Collie. Canines are a minimum of 18 months old and the average age of our canine team members is about 7 years old.
As of March 2020, there are 284 canine search teams that specialize in searching for survivors and 90 teams that specialize in searching for human remains.
For information on any of the 28 FEMA US&R Task Forces and how to join, click here.