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Public Safety News
Harris County Office of Emergency Management
News Release
Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Local Emergency Rescue Equipment Ready to Respond

(Harris County, TX) – Just in time for hurricane season, Harris County is geared up and ready to assist in search and rescue missions through its collaboration with the City of Baytown and the Southeast Texas Regional Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Task Force.

The Southeast Texas Regional USAR squad now has the same equipment used by a Type 3 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) teams.  The equipment, which is housed in Baytown, consists of specialized cameras to search voids for trapped people, tools to breach heavily constructed buildings, shoring equipment to support collapsed structures and devices used to extricate victims from confined spaces. 

The task force is made up of 150 emergency responders from Harris, Montgomery and Fort Bend counties.  They are trained in firefighting, emergency medicine, hazardous materials, rescue, safety and incident management, and are ready to respond to disasters, natural and man-made.

“Harris County is proud to be part of the regional task force, which was created to provide immediate response to disasters and structural collapse incidents throughout the tri-county area,” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. “Our team members are fully trained and disaster ready.”

Harris County’s primary responder is the Baytown Fire Department, with rescue staff and equipment that is available 24/7. 

“Baytown firefighters have gone through 4,500 hours of additional training,” said Mayor Stephen H. DonCarlos.  “The training is invaluable; it not only benefits our community, but the whole region.”

The team goes through the same training completed by all national search and rescue task forces, although the regional team is designed to be smaller and arrive faster.

Depending on the size and scope of the incident, the closest urban search and rescue squad will respond to the scene and begin supporting the local fire departments. 

“When an incident occurs, local fire departments can request assistance from the regional rescue teams,” said Baytown Special Operations Chief Bill Baylis. “Our department alone has 20 firefighters on the task force.”

The Southeast Texas Regional USAR Task Force has been in development since 2006 as a cooperative regional project and chartered by members of the Houston Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI).

“The task force has members and equipment staged across our region,” said Regional Rescue Coordinator James Pitts, from the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office. “And we’re working diligently to recruit more team members from surrounding jurisdictions.”

The Baytown Fire Department has received more than $1 million dollars for equipment and training. 

Most of the funding comes from UASI grants, which helps cross-train members in several areas, including building collapse searches, hazardous materials response and confined space and trench rescues. Training is conducted throughout the year.

Attached photos:

Technical Rescue 51 (TR 51) responds to confined space rescue and high angle rescue.  It combines with TR 52 to respond to trench rescue and structural collapse rescues.

Lt. Shawn Russi from the Baytown Fire Department participating in a rope rescue class.

Baytown rescue squad participating in a wood raker shoring exercise (building stabilization).




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