The Fairfax County International Urban Search & Rescue Team, sponsored by the Fairfax County, Virginia Fire and Rescue Department is capable of both domestic and international disaster response.
The team has extensive deployment experience with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA). The team is recognized throughout the United States and the world, as a premier leader in disaster response and the provision of training in catastrophic event mitigation, readiness, and recovery.
The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, along with the Fairfax County Board of supervisors, greatly supports the Team in its mission. With their strong support, and the support of the residents of Fairfax County, the Team will continue assisting the development and enhancement of other search and rescue resources to ultimately lessen the probability and necessity of it being deployed.
The Team began its humanitarian response relationship with the US Agency for International Development - Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID-OFDA â€“ The prior name of BHA) in 1986 following a tragic 1985 seismic event in Mexico City. Recognizing a lack of qualified search and rescue resources in the Americas Region, USAID joined in a strategic partnership with the Fairfax County and Miami-Dade fire and rescue departments to develop a self-sustainable response resource. Its first deployment was to Spitak in Soviet Armenia in 1988 after a large earthquake.
As Cold War priorities diminished in the early 1990s, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) transitioned strategic planning from Civil Defense to concepts like those endorsed by USAID - mitigation, response, and recovery. When FEMA announced plans to develop a domestic National Urban search and Rescue (US&R) Response System, Fairfax County was one of the original respondents. Accepted into the domestic system in 1991, the team was deemed "operational" by both FEMA and USAID. Our team is proud to be one of only 28 domestic resources qualified by FEMA and one of two utilized internationally by USAID.
Approximately 210 trained and equipped personnel are on the team and when activated to respond the deploying team is comprised of up to 80 personnel including firefighters and paramedics from the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department (career and volunteer) and highly trained civilians including physicians, canine handlers, structural engineers, communications experts, and heavy rigging specialists.
When activated by either federal partner, all related expenses are fully reimbursed by the deploying entity, resulting in no direct cost to the citizens of Fairfax County, Virginia.
In addition to initial certification training, Team personnel attend monthly functional training to maintain their skills, often without compensation, as they agree the small personal cost is an investment in being part of a talented response resource. The Team also conducts two annual "Full Team" exercises; one classroom based and the other a multi-day field exercise simulating a full earthquake response.
Since 1986, Team members have been at the forefront assisting in developing response systems both domestically and internationally. This assistance and support, supplied to USAID, the United Nations (UN), and FEMA, continues and helps ensure the world's first responder community remains prepared.
Recognizing it takes many partnerships to ensure a successful venture the team fosters an exceptional relationship with USAID and FEMA, as well as its evolving initiatives with the UN. However, the most important relationship is with Team families and co-workers. Deployed without warning, often late at night, the Team cannot fulfill their mission without knowing they have the support of their family members and those they work with day to day.