Urban Search and Rescue Missouri Task Force 1

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Missouri Task Force 1

Missouri Task Force One (MO-TF1) is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Force based in Boone County, Missouri. MO-TF1 is sponsored by the Boone County Fire Protection District and is designated as the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Response Team for the state of Missouri.[1]


MO-TF1 is capable of performing 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

Urban search and rescue (US&R) involves the location, rescue (extrication) and initial medical stabilization of victims trapped in confined spaces. Structural collapse is most often the cause of victims being trapped, but victims may also be trapped in transportation accidents, mines and collapsed trenches.

Urban search and rescue (US&R) is considered a "multi-hazard" discipline, as it may be needed for a variety of emergencies or disasters, including earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, storms and tornadoes, floods, dam failures, technological accidents, terrorist activities, and hazardous materials releases. The events may be slow in developing, as in the case of hurricanes, or sudden, as in the case of earthquakes.

If a disaster event warrants national US&R support, FEMA will deploy the three closest task forces within six hours of notification, and additional teams as necessary. The role of these task forces is to support state and local emergency responders' efforts to locate victims and manage recovery operations.

Each task force consists of 70 specially trained personnel (two 35-person teams), four canines and a comprehensive equipment cache. US&R task force members work in four areas of specialization: search, to find victims trapped after a disaster; rescue, which includes safely digging victims out of tons of collapsed concrete and metal; technical, made up of structural specialists who make rescues safe for the rescuers; and medical, which cares for the victims before and after a rescue.

US&R History[edit]

In the early 1980s, the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue and Metro-Dade County Fire Department created elite search-and-rescue (US&R) teams trained for rescue operations in collapsed buildings. Working with the United States State Department and Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, these teams provided vital search-and-rescue support for catastrophic earthquakes in Mexico City, the Philippines and Armenia.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established the National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Response System in 1989 as a framework for structuring local emergency services personnel into integrated disaster response task forces.

In 1991, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) incorporated this concept into the Federal Response Plan (now the National Response Plan), sponsoring 25 national urban search-and-rescue task forces.

Events such as the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the Northridge earthquake, the Kansas grain elevator explosion in 1998 and earthquakes in Turkey and Greece in 1999 underscore the need for highly skilled teams to rescue trapped victims.

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 thrust FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams into the spotlight. Their important work transfixed a world and brought a surge of gratitude and support.

Today there are 28 national task forces staffed and equipped to conduct round-the-clock search-and-rescue operations following earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, aircraft accidents, hazardous materials spills and catastrophic structure collapses. These task forces, complete with necessary tools and equipment, and required skills and techniques, can be deployed by FEMA for the rescue of victims of structural collapse.


Members of MO-TF1 rescuing a couple of Hurricane Katrina victims.

Several distinct and specific teams make up the US&R Task Force: Search Team, Rescue Team, Medical Team, Hazardous Materials Team, Logistics Team and Planning Team.[2]

Task Force Leaders/Safety Officers[edit]

The Task Force is managed by two (2) Task Force Leaders. Two (2) Safety Officers serve the Task Force evaluating conditions and mitigating safety hazards.

Search Team[edit]

The Search Team is composed of two (2) Search Team Managers, two (2) Technical Search Specialists and four (4) Canine Search Specialists and their dogs. After a site is declared safe to work in by the structural and hazardous materials specialists, the Search Team ventures around and into the collapsed structure attempting to locate trapped victims and identify dangerous areas. The team uses electronic listening devices, extremely small fiber-optic search cameras and specially trained search dogs to locate victims.

Rescue Team[edit]

The Rescue Team is composed of two (2) Rescue Team Managers, two (2) Heavy Equipment and Rigging Specialists and four (4) Rescue Squads. Each Rescue Squad is composed of one (1) Rescue Squad Officer and five (5) Rescue Specialists. Once victims are located, the Rescue Team goes about the daunting task of breaking and cutting through literally thousands of pounds of concrete, metal and wood to reach entrapped victims. The entry points to work areas in and around the building must be supported with wood shoring to prevent further collapse. Equipment used includes pneumatic, hydraulic and hand-powered cutting, breaching/breaking and burning tools. Heavy Equipment and Rigging Specialists can interface with local crane and heavy equipment operators to remove any rubble or debris that continue to impede access. Once entrapped victims are reached, they must be freed by backing them out through the hole the rescue group made to reach them.

Medical Team[edit]

The Medical Team is composed of two (2) Medical Team Managers and four (4) Medical Specialists. Each Medical Team Manager is a physician specializing in emergency medicine, critical care medicine or trauma surgery. Medical Specialists are EMT-Paramedics specially trained in confined space medicine. The Medical Team provides medical care for rescued victims and Task Force members. They enter the dangerous interior of the collapsed structure to render aid to trapped victims. A completely stocked mobile emergency room is part of the Task Force equipment cache.

Hazardous Materials Team[edit]

The Hazardous Materials Team is composed of two (2) Hazardous Materials Team Managers and eight (8) Hazardous Materials Specialists. The Hazardous Materials Team is responsible for hazardous materials monitoring and detection and providing decontamination services for the Task Force.

Logistics Team[edit]

The Logistics Team is composed of two (2) Logistics Team Managers, two (2) Logistics Specialist and two (2) Communications Specialists. The Logistics Team provides support functions for the other teams. Logistics specialists track and maintain the over 16,000 individual pieces of equipment and supplies in the task force's equipment cache. Communications specialists operate and maintain communications equipment used by task force personnel.

Planning Team[edit]

The Planning Team is composed of two (2) Planning Team Managers, two (2) Technical Information Specialists and two (2) Structures Specialists (Professional Engineers). The Structures Specialist assesses the potential for additional collapse, planning team managers and technical information specialists collect and analyze data and incident information so as to anticipate future work plans and task force needs. This group also assists the task force leaders with the development of a Task Force Action Plan (TAP) for each operational period.


Minimum requirements to be a member of MO-TF1 include: CPR certification, Emergency Medical Technician certification, and completion of a FEMA Structural Collapse Technician (SCT) course. Once these classes are completed, additional specialized training and continuing education must be completed to qualify for each individual discipline.[3]

Member Departments[edit]


Federal Deployments[edit]

State Deployments[edit]

  • June 2006 – Clinton, MO - Building Collapse [4]
  • March 2008 Piedmont, MO Floods (Swiftwater Assets)
  • May 2008 – Newton County, MO - Tornado
  • December 2010 - Fort Leonard Wood, MO - Tornado
  • May 2011 - Joplin, MO - Tornado


External links[edit]