Here’s a piece I wrote for the Defense Media Network about Virginia Task Force 1, the International Search and Rescue Team from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. With Japan in great need after the 8.9 magnitude earthquake, Virginia Task Force 1 is already deployed in the Ofanuto area of Japan.

No continent or community is immune to disasters, but having the right people to engage in the arduous task of search and rescue operations in the worst of conditions is a level unto itself. That is exactly where you should expect to find Virginia Task Force 1, the International Search and Rescue Team of the Fairfax County (Virginia) Fire and Rescue Department.

Located and in the shadow of the nation’s Capitol and the suburbs of Northern Virginia, this twenty-five year old elite unit has the distinction of being a locally established unit with an internationally-recognized worldwide reach.

Comprised entirely of 200 specially trained members (e.g. physicians, paramedics, canine handlers, communications personnel, heavy rigging specialists, structural engineers, etc.) of Fairfax County’s Fire and Rescue Department, Virginia Task Force 1 has been on the front lines of just about every major disaster, (man-made and terrorism) for its nearly three decades of operation. It is even further distinguished as being one of twenty-eight domestic resources qualified by DHS’ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist with large-scale homeland security operations, and one of two resources utilized by Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for international disaster. In short, when there is a really bad day, they get called.

Read the rest of this piece on the Defense Media Network.

Rich Cooper blogs primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More