Deputy Inspector Robert Lukach, right, speaks with Commissioner Kelly before being deployed to Haiti as the leader of the NYPD component of an Urban Search and Rescue team.
AUDIO: Commissioner Kelly remarks on need for help in Haiti.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced Thursday that New York Task Force One, New York City’s Federal Emergency Management Agency-sponsored (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue team made up of specially-trained personnel from the New York City Police and Fire Departments, has been activated and will deploy to Haiti this morning to assist with relief efforts. The Mayor greeted members of the task force at the Office of Emergency Management’s (OEM) warehouse in Brooklyn prior their departure.
“President Obama asked for our assistance and we are answering his call to respond to the unimaginably tragic events in Haiti by sending the best – our specially trained joint task force of New York City police officers and firefighters,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The world came to our aid on 9/11 and we want to provide assistance around the globe when needed, whether it’s giving supplies, sharing lessons learned, or sending our first responders to help people. Our team should be on the ground in Haiti later today and I want to say to all of them, on behalf of all New Yorkers – be safe and thank you for lending a hand to people in dire need.”
“None are more experienced and they all have in common the desire and expertise to serve at the highest level possible,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.
“All of us in the FDNY are shocked and saddened by the devastation in Haiti,” said Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano. “We’re grateful, however, that many of our members are specially trained to help people under the very worst circumstances and that we’re bringing that help to them today. Just as the world stood beside all of us after the tragic September 11th attacks, we know it's our duty to help others crippled by disaster, whether it’s a hurricane along the Gulf Coast or an earthquake in Haiti. We’re very proud to be a part of the relief effort.”
“New York City has some of the finest first responders in the world. The Urban Search and Rescue team is specifically trained to deal with heavy concrete, steel, and unstable conditions like those brought about by Tuesday’s devastating earthquake in Haiti. Two months ago, this team faced the aftermath of a mock earthquake at a drill in upstate New York – I know they are ready to put their newly honed skills to work and will prove invaluable to the Haitian rescue efforts.”
New York Task Force One is managed by the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the team is equipped with the latest technology and equipment, trained to respond to catastrophic events involving the collapse of heavy steel and concrete. New York Task Force One specializes in urban search and rescue, disaster recovery, and emergency triage and medicine. Eighty members of New York Task Force One and approximately 20 tons of equipment will depart from OEM’s Brooklyn facility before deploying from Stewart Air Force Base in Newburgh, New York. The team is expected to arrive in Haiti early this afternoon or this evening. There are 28 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams strategically located throughout the United States which can be deployed within six hours of activation.
The FEMA Urban Search and Rescue program was originally envisioned as a response system for natural disasters. Since the program’s inception, the task forces have broadened the scope of its work. Two early activations of the Urban Search and Rescue system occurred in response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in California. Urban Search and Rescue teams were also activated in response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Additionally, FEMA has deployed Urban Search and Rescue teams for such events as the Atlanta and Salt Lake City Olympic games, the 1997 and 2001 presidential inaugurations, and the Gulf Coast hurricanes in 2007. New York Task Force One was last deployed in 2008 in response to Hurricane’s Ike and Gustav.