Local Urban Search and Rescue Teams, or USAR, are prepared and ready to respond to the mudslide disaster in Washington State.
The Ventura County Fire Department has two heavy rescue companies. Both are part of the California Office of Emergency Services Regional USAR Task Force. The 29 member team is qualified to respond to natural disasters and heavy rescues across the state and nationwide.
The Ventura County USAR team has sophisticated equipment to help search for the missing in natural and man-made disasters. In Washington State, crews are struggling with mounds of mud and dirt covering the area. One of the tools this USAR team has at its disposal is called a "Rescue Vac," which acts like a vacuum to suction mud and debris from around a victim. Another tool is a camera attached to a nine-foot wand that can look for people in small spaces. A third tool, described as an electronic stethoscope, can measure vibrations beneath rubble to find a person in a collapsed area.
Ventura County Fire Captain Mel Lovo says the USAR teams specialize in scenarios like the Washington State mudslide. "Early on, we would be looking in places where people are trapped. That's where we would concentrate initially."
Technical and heavy rescue is a daily preparation for these crews. "We're working on either responding to or training for some type of incident like this on any given day," said Lovo.
Officials in Washington State have not called on the Ventura County USAR teams so far. But, Lovo says they are able to go at any time.