Chapter Appendix A - Recommendations
Section Search and Rescue
Critical Challenge: Search and Rescue
Lesson Learned: The Department of Homeland Security should lead an interagency review of current policies and procedures to ensure effective integration of all Federal search and rescue assets during disaster response.
44. DHS should lead an interagency team to review and revise the NRP to ensure the integration of all Federal search and rescue assets. This review should:
a. Expand ESF-9 to ensure the coordination of all Federal search and rescue operations, not just urban search and rescue. Under this new construct, both the urban and civil search and rescue coordinators would report to the Operations Section Chief under the Incident Commander. This structure is consistent with the National Search and Rescue Plan (NSP) requirement for the civil search and rescue coordinator to serve as the search and rescue representative to the Incident Commander, as well as with NIMS and ICS principles that place both urban search and rescue and civil search and rescue under the Operations Section. It would allow both coordinators to support each other and share resources, depending on the nature of the incident. Ideally, the ESF-9 coordinator in the Joint Field Office (JFO) should have extensive training and education in both urban search and rescue and civil search and rescue.
b. Require coordination throughout Incident Command to ensure continuity of care for those rescued. The ESF-9 coordinator should work with the logistics section under ESF-5: Emergency Management and the other ESF’s grouped under the Emergency Services Branch (including ESF-8: Public Health and Medical Services) to ensure victims receive medical care and are transported to an adequate housing shelter.
c. ESF-9 must include the United States Forest Service’s (USFS), DOI and EPA capabilities to perform search and rescue operations. USFS is given the role as primary agency under ESF-4: Firefighting and as supporting agency under ESF-9. DOI is a principal partner with USFS in carrying out ESF-4 functions. As firefighters make up a large percentage of FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams, their expertise and capabilities should also contribute to search and rescue operations. Under ESF-9, the mission statements of USFS and DOI should include the availability of firefighting personnel, not just equipment and supplies, for use in search and rescue operations. ESF-9 must include the capabilities of all participants in the National Search and Rescue Committee.
45. The National Search and Rescue Committee should revise the National Search and Rescue Plan (NSP) to include disaster response operations. The NRP references the NSP as a supporting operational document. However, the NSP is confusing because it specifically states that it does not cover overall response to disaster operations, as called for in the NRP. The NSP should therefore be revised to clarify its role in disaster response operations. The revision should specifically address air traffic control and coordination.
46. Each State and major city should incorporate Search and Rescue and US&R annexes into their overall disaster response plans. Federal grant assistance should require each State, under the State Homeland Security Grant Program, and urban area under the Urban Areas Security Initiative, develop a search and rescue annex within its specific disaster response plan, as part of its concept of operations. This search and rescue annex should be scalable, modular, organized along ICS principles, and be all-hazards in scope. It should also specifically delineate which agencies have primary responsibility for each aspect of search and rescue. The plan should specify in what order Federal assistance assets or State-to-State mutual aid assets (through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact) will be requested and detail how search and rescue coordination will be integrated into incident command. These search and rescue annexes should identify where victims are to be taken in the event Federal, State, and local logistical support to the victims is required. Representatives of National Search and Rescue committee organizations should assist the development of State and local search and rescue plans.
47. DHS should expand the National Preparedness Goal’s Target Capabilities List (TCL) Capability: Urban Search and Rescue to require Federal Urban Search and Rescue teams and State and local entities to train, equip, and exercise for civil search and rescue missions. Currently, this capability only focuses on urban search and rescue and does not include any of the types of civil search and rescue, such as maritime rescue. An expanded capability should use the NSP as the guide for including civil search and rescue performance standards. State and local entities not currently in the national civil search and rescue community could then use the expanded search and rescue capability as a reference to plan, train, and exercise for both urban search and rescue and civil search and rescue missions. Funding for urban search and rescue teams should reserve a portion of their funding allocated to train and equip FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force members for civil search and rescue operations.
48. DHS should create a national search and rescue volunteer certification program. This national certification should be used to verify the identity and the level of skills and training of search and rescue volunteers. Volunteers could report to “reception centers,” which should be established along the perimeter of any impacted area to receive spontaneous volunteers. A national certification program would speed the incorporation of these individuals into the unified search and rescue command structure and greatly increase the effectiveness of the response. Voluntary organizations such as the National Association of Search and Rescue (NASAR) should be requested to assist with such a certification program.