January 22, 2010

1985 Mexico City quake led to better SAR

Throughout the Haiti rescue efforts mentions are made of search and rescue teams from Fairfax Co., Los Angeles, Florida, etc. These are volunteers who receive special training and are self-contained SAR units.

And it all started when the ad-hoc SAR efforts in Mexico City in 1985 proved dangerous.

I know the 1985 process was dangerous and ad-hoc because I was there. I worked with dog search teams from around the USA, an underground camera team from the US Bureau of Mines and a seismic sensor team from USGS.

The Mexico earthquake was the first time any of these teams worked in an urban disaster environment. And with no training for any of us in an urban disaster situation, we went out to save lives.

Along the way, because so much help was coming in and Mexican coordination of efforts was weak at best, I was able to identify an Israeli medical team and a Venezuelan construction team. In the end we had a comprehensive unit of dogs, technology experts, 8excavation workers and a medical unit.

The video below from Fairfax County makes it clear it was the Mexico disaster that showed the need for comprehensive SAR teams ready to go at a moments notice.

And I am sure the survivors in Haiti are thankful that the lessons learned in Mexico are being applied now.

II have to think that many of the people who are critical of the SAR and relief efforts in Haiti really don't understand what happens to a place that has always had poor infrastructure and communications gets hit with a major


For journalists in the DC area, the members of the Fairfax SAR team are prime candidates for profile stories.

For journalists elsewhere, look around. I will bet there is a similar outfit in your area.

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