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Urban Search and Rescue

To respond to natural and man-made disasters as well as providing search and rescue, medical support, communications and damage assessment.

The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue US&R team, Florida Task Force-1 (FL-TF1) is available 24 hours a day, locally or nationally.  In cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the State of Florida and other agencies, the task force can be mobilized once an affected disaster area exceeds their own response capabilities and officially requests outside help.

FL-TF1 is set up to perform the following operations:

  • Conduct physical search and rescue operations in damaged/collapsed structures, flooded areas and transportation accident scenes
  • Provide emergency medical care at disaster sites for trapped victims and task force members
  • Carry out reconnaissance duties to assess damage and determine needs, then use that information to provide feedback to all agencies involved
  • Provide disaster communications support using state-of-the-art satellite systems
  • Conduct hazardous materials surveys/evaluations of affected areas
  • Assist in stabilizing damaged structures, including shoring and cribbing operations

The Task Force is supported by a comprehensive equipment cache totaling 50,000 pounds. It provides total self-sufficiency for immediate mission response and includes:

  • Rations for 10 days of operations
  • Housing and feeding facilities for its members
  • Acoustic, fiber optic and video search equipment
  • Electric, gasoline, hydraulic, mechanical and pneumatic tools for working on reinforced concrete structures
  • Hazardous materials monitoring equipment
  • Medical equipment to provide emergency medical care to 10 critical patients, 15 moderate and 25 minor patients
  • Satellite, digital phone and radio equipment capable of providing local, regional and global communications of voice, data and fax transmissions. The communications equipment is DOD compatible.


  • Earthquakes
    1985     Mexico City
    1986     El Salvador
    1988     Armenia
    1990     Philippines
    1997     Venezuela
    1999     Colombia
    1999     Turkey
    1999     Taiwan
    2010     Haiti
  • Hurricanes / Weather Disasters
    1988     Gilbert, Jamaica
    1989     Hugo, Eastern Caribbean
    1992     Andrew, Miami
    1995     Luis, Caribbean
    1995     Marilyn, Caribbean
    1995     Opal, North Florida
    2000     Belize
    2004     Charley, Charlotte County, Florida
    2005     Katrina, New Orleans, Louisiana
    2008     Gustav, Texas
    2008     Ike, Miami-Dade County, Florida
  • Flooding/Weather Disasters
    2000     Mozambique
  • Building Explosions
    1995     Oklahoma City
    1996     Columbo, Sri Lanka
    1996     Puerto Rico
    2001     Pentagon, Washington, D.C.
    2001     World Trade Center, New York
  • Airplane Crash
    1995-96     Buga, Colombia
    1996          ValuJet Crash, Florida
  • Communications Support
    1989     Romania
    1991     Northern Iraq & Turkey
    1994     Rwanda
    1994     Haiti
    1995     Montserrat
    1995     Sierra Leone
    1996     Bosnia
    1998     Nairobi, Kenya
  • Building Collapse
    2007     Barbados


In the early 1980's two fire departments, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (at that time known as Metro-Dade Fire Rescue) and the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department, operated under an agreement with the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) of the U.S. State Department to provide international search and rescue assistance in times of disaster.  During these early years, assistance was provided to the countries of Mexico, Philippines and Soviet Armenia.

In 1991, FEMA incorporated a US&R team concept into a federal response plan. Over 20 teams were geographically chosen throughout the country, with local public safety departments as sponsoring agencies. Today, under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  there are 28 national task forces staffed and equipped to provide 24-hour search and rescue operations following earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and other natural or human-caused disasters.

If a disaster warrants a national US&R response, DHS/FEMA will initially deploy the three closest task forces.  Once notified, each team has a six hour window to mobilize 70 search and rescue specialists to report to a prearranged departure point. The role of FL-TF1 and the other task forces is to always support state and local responders' efforts to locate victims and manage recovery operations.
FL-TF1 is comprised mostly of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue personnel and other outside specialists as needed. Team members are divided into specialized components of the task force that include: a command group, a rescue group, a search group, a medical group and a planning group.

In addition, FL-TF1 currently has 9 FEMA certified canine teams. Each team is composed of a handler and a search dog. These canine teams make up the canine search component of the task force.