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News & Info Friday, October 31, 2014
 
Recent News

VATF1 Activated for Hurricane Sandy 10/28/2012
(October 28, 2012) Virginia Task Force 1 (VATF-1), Fairfax County’s Urban Search and Rescue Team was activated this morning by the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, to assist in the response to the impending landfall of Hurricane Sandy. The task force will consist of 80 members and four search canines. The Task Force will be mobilized in place in Chantilly, Virginia until further orders are received. Additionally, as part of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, the team maintains a constant operational readiness, and is a local resource for the residents of Fairfax County.
 
VATF1 Activated for Hurricane Irene
(August 26, 2011) Virginia Task Force 1 (VATF-1), Fairfax County’s urban search and rescue team was activated this morning by the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, to assist in the response to the impending landfall of Hurricane Irene. The task force will consist of 76 members and four search canines, and will depart from the Training Academy, 4600 West Ox Road, Fairfax, Virginia, at approximately noon today and stage near Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The self-contained heavy task force will consist of technical search and rescue specialists, structural engineers, physicians, paramedics, search canines, and communications and planning specialists. Virginia Task Force 1 last deployed to Japan in response to the devastating earthquake in March of 2011. Additionally, as part of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, the team maintains a constant operational readiness, and is a local resource for the residents of Fairfax County.
 
VATF1 Responds to Earthquake in Japan
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In response to the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is dispatching a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and has mobilized its partners, the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team and the Los Angeles County Search and Rescue Team. Each USAR team will be composed of approximately 72 personnel, search and rescue canines and approximately 75 tons of rescue equipment. The USAR teams will be accompanied by USAID disaster experts who will assist with assessments of the situation. "On behalf of the American people, I wish to convey our sympathy, thoughts and prayers to the people of Japan who have been affected by this devastating earthquake and tsunami," said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. "We are working with the government of Japan to provide any assistance needed in the rescue effort as quickly as possible." USAID will continue to provide additional support as needed.
 
VATF1 Deploys Second Team to Haiti
On Thursday, January 14, 2010 Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Urban Search and Rescue deployed our second search and rescue team to Haiti to assist with rescue efforts. This team consisted of 42 personnel, one canine and equipment. They will assist other rescue teams already in the region. We will designate the first team that deployed as USA-1 (Heavy team with 72 personnel) and the second team that deployed as USA-5 Medium (Medium with 42 personnel) as they will be carrying out different operations.
 
Information about Haiti Donations

For donations that go directly to Haiti relief programs, please visit the USAID website for a list of vetted charities.
www.usaid.gov

Virginia Task Force 1 cannot accept any offers for volunteers or equipment.

 
VATF1 Deploys to Haiti January 13, 2010
Virginia Task Force 1 (VATF-1), Fairfax County's urban search and rescue team was activated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Tuesday evening, January 12, 2010, to the earthquake near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The task force is composed of 72 personnel, 6 search and rescue canines, search and technical rescue personnel, physicians, paramedics, structural engineers, other support personnel, and approximately 48 tons of rescue equipment and supplies. The team is self-sustaining for approximately 14 days. The task force left from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s Academy at 8:15 a.m., January 13, 2010. The team will depart from Dulles International Airport late morning today. The task force deployed to the Haitian town of Petionville, near the capital of Port-au-Prince for a school collapse in November of 2008. The task force has also deployed nationally to the Oklahoma City Bombing, The Pentagon, Hurricanes Katrina and Isabel. Additionally, they have deployed internationally to the bombing in Kenya, earthquakes in Turkey, Taiwan, and Iran. Additionally, as a part of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, the task force maintains constant operational readiness, and is a local resource for residents of Fairfax County.
 
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Assisting With Bolivian Floods
Through its partnership with the United States Agency for International Development/Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), Virginia Task Force One-Urban Search and Rescue will deploy a team member to assist with coordination of the disaster relief efforts caused by the on-going flooding in Bolivia. As part of a United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, a Plans Manager for VATF-1 will join a group of humanitarian assistance personnel in the United States efforts to provide assistance. The team member is scheduled to depart Friday, February 8, 2008 with a destination of La Paz, Bolivia, where he will join other UNDAC personnel. The deployment is anticipated to last approximately two weeks. Fairfax County has a long-standing partnership with USAID in the provision of specialized humanitarian assistance during international disasters, both natural and man-made. Past international missions include earthquake responses in Pakistan and Iran as well as the U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi and the Indian Ocean Tsunami. The team, sponsored by the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, is comprised of emergency managers and planners, physicians and paramedics and includes specialists in the fields of structural engineering, heavy rigging, collapse rescue, logistics, hazardous materials, communications, canine and technical search. Virginia Task Force One maintains partnerships with USAID and the Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency for domestic and international response.
 
Three VA-TF1 Members Deploy to Peru Earthquake Disaster
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will send members from Virginia Task Force 1 (VA-TF1), Saturday, August 19, 2007 to assist in the humanitarian efforts following the earthquake in Peru. Three members from VA-TF1 will fly to Lima, Peru to be part of a support module of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team. Virginia Task Force 1 members are firefighters and first responders from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department and are specially trained in communications, liaison, and logistics. Members will deploy with life support equipment (tents, generators), IT equipment, and food and water to support 15 people for up to 21 days. The Department and USAID have a long-term partnership in the provision of specialized humanitarian relief which includes deployments of this type as well as urban search and rescue.
 
VIRGINIA TASK FORCE ONE OBTAINS UNITED NATIONS CLASSIFICATION
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department's urban search and rescue (US&R) team, Virginia Task Force One (VATF1) has recently earned United Nations (UN) International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) classification at the medium and heavy response levels. This achievement makes the United States only the third nation worldwide to receive this designation and VATF1 as the only resource in the US.

During the VATF1 Operational Readiness Exercise conducted on 19-21 September, the UN deployed a six member International Classification Evaluation team to Fairfax to conduct the evaluation. The team was comprised of experts in humanitarian response and relief and came from South Africa, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The Exercise was sanctioned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and funded/accredited by the United States Agency for International Development/Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/ OFDA), both VATF1 federal partners. Also participating were a group of US&R peers from Los Angeles, California and the United Kingdom. These professionals, teaming with members of VATF1, served as evaluators and facilitators, helping to ensure optimal educational and training benefit from the event.

Following established operational parameters and strict criteria established by INSARAG, the field exercise (FIELDEX) was designed to test the team's capabilities in planning, mobilizing and operational readiness. To do this, VATF1 rostered over 80 personnel who then performed 36-hours of continuous operations in and around Fairfax County. Using expertly designed scenarios in professionally constructed simulations, members performed search, rescue and recovery operations at the Training Academy and a site at the Former Lorton Youth Detention Center. Additionally, a fully operational Base of Operations (BoO) was set up and utilized by the team as its base camp.

The scenario format recreated the London terrorism bombings of 7 July 2005, making the exercise an international event. Beginning on Tuesday, September 19, the exercise took shape with the planning phase where command and general staff (C&GS) met to facilitate the alert and activation process. This involved simulated contact with the Fire and Rescue Department, the Office of Emergency Management, state of Virginia authorities and of course, FEMA and OFDA. As designated Task Force Leaders for the exercise, Assistant Chief Dave Rohr and Battalion Chief John Diamantes led the C&GS activities.

At 0630 hours on Wednesday, September 20, 80+ personnel began arriving at the Fire and Rescue Academy for mobilization and deployment to the "disaster". Exercise Control planners arranged with Captain II Mike Ciarrocchi (FS15-Chantilly), to establish a "border crossing" in their apparatus bay, complete with Customs, Immigration and related check points. This proved to be a challenge for 80 personnel and 6 canine teams, providing valuable lessons for future missions.

Throughout the ensuing time, personnel performed continuous operations using technical search, canine, breaching, breaking and shoring, as well as medical, hazardous materials and structural specialists to safely and efficiently locate, extricate and treat victims. To maintain as much "realism" as possible, the Family Support Services Team (FSST) was mobilized for the event, engaging many spouses and family members to be involved during both the early-morning mobilization process, as well as the scheduled evening teleconference with the Task Force Leader, family members and Fire Chief.

After several exhaustive, but very productive "operational periods", the FIELDEX successfully culminated on the afternoon of Thursday, September 21 at approximately 1600 hours.

The success of this "Field Exercise" was undoubtedly the result of many personnel. Beginning with the "rostered" participants, some that were just getting off their 24 hour shift, arrived fully prepared to "play". And play they did, sustained by their desire to train, along with a few MREs and relatively good weather. Also, support from Chief Neuhard and senior staff, as well as an impressive showing from both FEMA and OFDA personnel, lent to the significance and importance of the training opportunity. Additionally, a long list of task force and fire and rescue department personnel, to include the Training Academy staff, lent their talents to support the many logistical needs before, during and after the exercise. And finally, the members of Exercise Control, the group tasked with the overall planning and coordination of the exercise, which spent countless hours working with US&R Program Management and staff, international participants and federal partners to coordinate the event.

The benefits were numerous, to include; tenured members being able to enhance their skills; many personnel having the opportunity to train in new disciplines, allowing them to gain experience in new task force positions; and new members having the opportunity to work side-by-side with mentors in a "live" setting.

In addition to the many "internal" benefits, the opportunity to gain additional exposure, both domestic and internationally, serves to strengthen the bond that the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, and Virginia Task Force One have built with the search and rescue community over the past 20+ years.

 
VATF-1 Activated for Hurricane Ernesto
Virginia Task Force One has received an activation request from FEMA to deploy a thirty-four person Type III Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR) to Jacksonville, Florida as a preparedness contingency for Hurricane Ernesto. The team will depart this evening (8/27) and travel by bus to a designated staging area. In addition, a three person Incident Support Team consisting of VATF1 members departed earlier today to prepare for the arrival of VATF1. A second IST will depart later this afternoon. Information will be updated as events unfold.
 
Team Members Assist USAID in Pakistan
Four members of VATF1 were deployed on October 11 to assist with the U.S. response to the devastating earthquake in South Asia. Joining other humanitarian response professionals, personnel are serving on a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART. Currently based in Islamabad, the team will be coordinating disaster assessment efforts with United Nations representatives and the affected host country government. Additional information on U.S. humanitarian response efforts to this disaster can be found by clicking on the USAID logo.