Following Quake, Fairfax Rescue Team Heads to Japan
The USAID rescue team is mobilized and ready to deploy
The United States Agency for International Development activated their Fairfax County-based search and rescue team to aid in rescue efforts in Japan following an earthquake Thursday.
The team, composed of firefighters from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, received the call from USAID just after noon Friday, said Capt. Will Bailey, spokesman for the county agency.
Bailey said 72 of the more the 200 members of the team will travel to Japan at some point soon along with six search and rescue dogs. The team started assembling at the county’s fire academy with their equipment Friday afternoon.
“Each team member has three hours to report once they have been called,” he said. “If someone can’t make it, the agency calls the next person on the list until they have everyone they need.”
According to AOL News, this was the biggest earthquake to hit Japan in almost 150 years. A Google application has been developed to help locate Japanese residents who may have been separated from their families by the disaster.
The rescue team from Fairfax County will be taking cameras, breaking tools, listening devices and swift water boats to search for people who may still be living under debris, said Capt. Ramiro Galvez, lead officer for the planning section of the rescue team. Bailey said the team’s heavy equipment has been packed into a trailer and is ready to be transported to Japan.
Rescue members arrived one by one Friday afternoon, hauling large sacks of equipment and clothing they’ll take with them to Japan. Each rescuer placed their sacks atop a scale for a weigh in. Galvez said each person is allowed to take 60 pounds of gear and equipment total. For the 14-year veteran with the team, deployments like this always come down to time.
“Hopefully we will get there in time to really help the Japanese government find people who may still be alive,” Galvez said. “We still haven’t worked out all of our travel yet.”
Bailey said it could take the team up to two days to get their travel together. The rescue team is one of two in the nation that is trained to respond to international natural disaster rescue missions. One is in Los Angeles County and the other is the Fairfax County team. The Urban Search and Rescue teams deployed from the U.S. are trained to excavate people trapped under rubble, in the water and just about anywhere else people need to be rescued from. USAID pays 100 percent reimbursement for any deployment by either of the two teams in the U.S.
For the second time in three years, Brian Gillingham is being deployed to another natural disaster. He has been with the rescue team for three years and was deployed to Haiti last year, leaving his wife, Ali, to watch and wonder how her husband is fairing in an unfamiliar land.
“You get a little nervous,” she said Friday while she helped her husband pack some snacks in the sack he’s taking with him to Japan. “But I know he is with some of the best trained people in the world for missions like this.”
Click here for more information on the Fairfax County Technical Rescue Operations/Urban Search and Rescue teams.