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Urban Search & Rescue Task Force Sign of Regional Cooperation

Public Date: 6/24/2010 12:00 AM
Contact: Bill Mullan, Media and Communications Officer
Phone Number: 248-858-1048

Pontiac, MI, June 24, 2010 -- Regional cooperation is giving a boost to homeland security in southeast Michigan. With the support of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and other southeast Michigan leaders, Michigan Task Force 1 (MI-TF1) has launched Michigan’s first Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) task force.

It will have the ability to coordinate and conduct USAR response efforts for all hazards, including locating, extricating and providing on-site medical treatment to victims trapped in damaged or collapsed structures. The task force and equipment were revealed at a news conference today at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford.

"My Risk Management Director Julie Secontine made me aware of a gap in Michigan's capability to respond to disasters several years ago," said Patterson. "So, with the help of my friends around the region, we supported putting this task force in place. We only need to look back at the Christmas terror attempt in the skies over Detroit to realize how necessary these squads are."

MI-TF1 has four USAR squads each comprised of medical and fire personnel, structural engineers, heavy equipment operators, and canine handlers. It serves the City of Detroit, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. It is also available to respond on an intra- and interstate basis.

"This collaboration and sharing of resources is a great example of implementing creative solutions in a time when we need to work together to maximize effectiveness," said Ficano. "This kind of preparation and planning has become part of everyday operations. We can never be too prepared, and this task force will ensure we’re ready to handle challenging situations."

"Nothing is more important than the safety of our city and region," said Bing. "This is a great example of the benefits of working with our regional partners."

Prior to the formation of MI-TF1, emergency response agencies in Michigan lacked the resources and expertise to conduct search and rescue (USAR) operations in collapsed buildings constructed of heavy concrete and steel. In fact, the closest Federal Emergency Management Agency USAR Task Force prior to MI-TF1 was in Indianapolis.

In order to be proactive for the region’s emergency preparedness, approximately $4 million of federal Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) dollars have been dedicated to create MI-TF1 in concert with the National Response Framework and Michigan’s 2006 Homeland Security Program and Capability Enhancement Plan.

"A regional approach to solving this issue, with the creation of a multi-jurisdictional task force, has proven valuable in a number of ways," said Independence Township Fire Chief Steve Ronk, MI-TF1 task force leader. "Achieving a state of operational readiness for Michigan USAR Task Force 1 is a critical step in improving Michigan’s overall preparedness as it relates to responding to terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other emergencies involving people trapped in collapsed structures."

MI-TF1 task force squad members were chosen from among applicants on the basis of who has the highest level of experience and training. They were selected by the five task force leaders: Ronk, Blue Squad Task Force leader; retired Southfield Battalion Chief Dean Masser, White Squad Task Force leader; retired Pontiac Battalion Chief Tim Campbell, Red Squad Task Force leader; Grand Rapids Fire Lieutenant Lee Finlayson, Green Squad Task Force leader; and retired Pontiac Battalion Chief Ron Zawlocki, MI-TF1 program manager. The USAR equipment will be stored at an undisclosed location.

For media inquiries only, please contact Bill Mullan, Media and Communications Officer, at 248-858-1048.​