A joint urban task force of specially trained New York police and fire personnel arrived in Haiti and has been assisting with disaster relief in the earthquake-ravaged country, the NYPD announced.
New York Task Force One is New York City's Federal Emergency Management Agency-sponsored (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue team made up of specially-trained first responders who met with Mayor Michael Bloomberg before deploying to Haiti.
"President Obama asked for our assistance, and we are answering his call to respond to the unimaginably tragic events in Haiti by sending the best—our specially trained joint task force of New York City police officers and firefighters," Bloomberg said. "The world came to our aid on 9/11 and we want to provide assistance around the globe when needed, whether it's giving supplies, sharing lessons learned, or sending our first responders to help people. Our team should be on the ground in Haiti later today and I want to say to all of them, on behalf of all New Yorkers—be safe and thank you for lending a hand to people in dire need."
New York Task Force One is managed by the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and is equipped with the latest technology and equipment, trained to respond to catastrophic events involving the collapse of heavy steel and concrete.
"None are more experienced and they all have in common the desire and expertise to serve at the highest level possible," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
"Two months ago, this team faced the aftermath of a mock earthquake at a drill in upstate New York," Kelly added. "I know they are ready to put their newly honed skills to work and will prove invaluable to the Haitian rescue efforts."
New York Task Force One specializes in urban search and rescue, disaster recovery, and emergency triage and medicine. Eighty members of New York Task Force One and approximately 20 tons of equipment depart from OEM's Brooklyn facility.
There are 28 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams strategically located throughout the United States which can be deployed within six hours of activation.
The FEMA Urban Search and Rescue program was originally envisioned as a response system for natural disasters. Since the program's inception, the task forces have broadened the scope of its work.
Two early activations of the Urban Search and Rescue system occurred in response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in California. Urban Search and Rescue teams were also activated in response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Additionally, FEMA has deployed Urban Search and Rescue teams for such events as the Atlanta and Salt Lake City Olympic games, the 1997 and 2001 presidential inaugurations, and the Gulf Coast hurricanes in 2007. New York Task Force One was last deployed in 2008 in response to Hurricane's Ike and Gustav.