Fairfax Task Force 1 Returns Home


Task Force 1 members report to the Fairfax County Fire Academy, ready to be deployed to rescue victims of Hurricane Irene

Updated 8:45 pM

As a result of flooding and concerns with the integrity of various dams in New Jersey, FEMA has directed Virginia Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Swift water resources have been added to the complement of VATF-1 resources.

Fairfax County’s Virginia Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue team is returning home to the fire academy, where they stand ready to be reassigned.

They began their journey home at midnight last night under escort by federal law enforcement officials.

While they were to be deployed to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, federal officials actually sent the team to Fort Bragg, N.C.

Task Force 1 routinely travels to disasters worldwide, helping to rescue earthquake and flood victims.

Here is a blog post written by Task Force 1 member John Diamantes for a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) publication:

In anticipation of Hurricane Irene, FEMA deployed the Virginia Task Force 1 (VATF-1), Fairfax County’s urban search and rescue team to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. You may remember the VATF-1 from earlier this year; we deployed to Japan in response to the devastating earthquake in March of 2011 (under the direction of the Department of State). Our team is currently staged in Fayetteville and prepared to be mobilized as Hurricane Irene continues its path.

While waiting for orders, the task force, made up of a 77 member team and four search canines, is currently undergoing classroom-type training. This training prepares us for many types of disaster related situations, such swift-water activities and other related storm activities, including flooding and structural collapse. We are standing ready at this moment, but once we are activated, we’ll be on the move within an hour to provide assistance to the affected areas.


Fayetteville, NC, August 27, 2011 -- Virginia Task Force 1 Rescue Specialists Erick Weinzapfel (L), Bobby Garza (c) and Mark Lucas (r) orient their GPS units in preparation for the urban search and rescue team to be deployed in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, if needed.

The task force consists of technical search and rescue specialists, structural engineers, physicians, paramedics, search canines, and communications and planning specialists. Our team can conduct physical search and heavy rescue operations in damaged or collapsed reinforced concrete buildings. In most cases, we are assigned to do specialized work in dangerous and hazardous areas that are inaccessible to residents and locals. If the team received orders through FEMA right now, we’d dispatch to the location, do an assessment and began the search.

We would search for:

  • Stranded citizens
  • Citizens trapped in damaged structures
  • Severely injured victims with accessibility limits

The task force is part of a major network across the nation. There are 28 Urban Search and Rescue Teams dedicated to bring together federal, state and local partner emergency response into the National Urban Search & Rescue Response System. All teams can be activated for major disasters to assist in rescuing victims or to assist in other search and rescue missions.


About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.