USAR Team 2The Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue Team (CALIFORNIA TASK FORCE 2), known internationally as USA-2, achieved its re-classification as an “International Heavy-USAR Team” after a rigorous evaluation by a team of multinational United Nations (UN) representatives this past weekend.

In order to ensure the team meets the minimal emergency response standards set by the United States Agency for International Development, it must be evaluated every five years during a 48-hour simulation exercise.

74 members of the elite rescue unit took part in a training exercise that simulated a 7.3 earthquake at the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Del Valle Regional Training Facility on Chiquito Canyon Road, off Highway 126. An 8-man delegation of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group spent the weekend evaluating the team’s readiness for international deployment.

The team includes firefighters, paramedics, emergency room doctors, structural engineers, heavy equipment specialists, hazardous materials technicians, and communications and logistics specialists.

“We bring the cream of the crop to our team,” said the fire department’s Capt. Mark Fraser. “We have physicians because sometimes we need to treat our members, sometimes some of the victims.”

At one site, crew members wearing protective masks and hard hats, using jackhammers and circular saws, cut through a pile of concrete slabs arranged to look like a collapsed five-story hotel.

“This is a collapsed five-story structure, and these guys have been working all night long, non-stop pulling victims out along the way,” said Lt. Larry Collins, pointing to simulated rescue efforts.

At another site, medical teams were assessed on how they responded to life-size dummies pulled from the rubble.

A third crew was assessed on how they fortified a two-story house damaged during the simulated earthquake.

USA-2 is one of only two Urban Search and Rescue Teams in the nation to be classified by the UN’s International Search and Rescue Advisory Group, a multinational organization that includes the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. The only other American response team recognized by the international deployment agency is based in Virginia.

Source: and the LA County Fire Department