Developed at Home, Tested Abroad

Oftentimes when catastrophic disasters strike on the other side of the world, people look around and say ‘what can I do to help?’ Some of our neighbors, colleagues, and friends know exactly what they can do, and spring into action.  Such is the case with CA-TF2 (California Task Force 2), the California-based Urban Search and Rescue Team sponsored by the Los Angeles County Fire Department.


Following Nepal’s devastating 7.8 earthquake, CA-TF2 was mobilized to assist in the search for survivors. These highly-trained Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Task Forces are specialized groups that are equipped to safely search for survivors in even the most complex disaster situations.


In this case, LA County Fire Department sent 57 personnel and six search dogs to Nepal to assist with search and rescue efforts. In all, they were in Nepal searching for victims in and around Kathmandu for 19 days.


According to news reports, CA-TF2 has previously responded to assist in survivor searches in Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, and the 2014 Washington mudslides, as well as many other searches. These real-world experiences allow Task Force members to bring experiences and lessons learned home to Los Angeles. Here they can educate their fellow first responders about what they saw and experienced, and make their response capabilities that much better when disasters occur in Southern California.


The movement of the 59-member Task Force required numerous agencies and groups working together. The Napli government requested assistance via the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. The U.S. Air Force assisted in transporting personnel and canines to Nepal. For domestic incidents, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would have requested the Task Force and managed their response.


While the Nepal earthquake is a sober reminder for all of us to be prepared for major earthquakes, it is also a reminder of the importance of training for our first responders. Their training here at home allows them to save lives on the other side of the country, a skill we are all deeply grateful for.



Featured image: The USAR warehouse in Pacoima is ready for USA-2’s return. Photo by Inspector Randall Wright.

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