Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) involves the location, rescue (extrication), and initial medical stabilization of victims trapped in confined spaces. Structural collapse is most often the cause of victims being unable to escape, but victims may also be trapped in transportation accidents, mines, collapsed trenches and most recently in their own homes and businesses secondary to a hurricane. Urban Search and Rescue is considered a "multi-hazard" discipline, as it may be needed for a variety of emergencies or disasters, including earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, storms and tornadoes, floods, dam failures, technological accidents, terrorists activities, and hazardous materials releases.
There are many participants in the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System. These participants can be grouped into three main categories.
-FEMA - establishes policy and leads the coordination of the national system.
-Task Forces - there are 28 FEMA USAR Task Forces spread throughout the continental United States and equipped by FEMA to handle structural collapse, large scale rescue and wide area destruction.
- Incident Support Teams - support the USAR Task Forces in accomplishing their mission through logistical, electronic, and coordination expertise.
-Each canine and handler team must be certified through FEMA in search and rescue.
-For the handler, certification includes written and verbal testing regarding search-and rescue strategies, briefing skills, and canine handling skills.
-For the search-and-rescue canine, certification includes proper command control, overcome innate fears of tunnels and wobbly surfaces under the guidance of the handler.
-Certification for each Canine Search Specialist Team (Dog and Handler) requires the canine and handler to pass a FEMA sanctioned evaluation process administered with rostered USAR evaluators.
-Currently there are less than 200 such certified teams throughout the United States.