across Canada and the United States have assumed a major role as
primary responders to all types of emergencies that involve,
other things, structural collapse, trench cave-in, confined spaces,
industrial and agricultural machinery, water related emergencies
and persons trapped above or below grade level.
of emergencies when grouped together into a category of incident
are called technical rescue. Technical rescue incidents are often
complex, requiring specially trained personnel and special equipment
sufficient to mitigate the emergency to a successful conclusion.
The "Community Risk Analysis" process that is performed
by every community often flags this type of incident as being
of a high probability and relies on the local emergency services
to be prepared should this type of incident occur.
It was this
type of process combined with some natural disasters, in the
U.S. which led to the creation of the Urban Search and Rescue
concept (US&R), Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) in Canada.
In recent years, a number of events have focused attention on
the need for a HUSAR capability in Canada. The 1995 Kobe, Japan
earthquake demonstrated that a large number of people can be
trapped in structures without warning and during a time when
it is very difficult for first responders to cope with more than
the most rudimentary of assistance. The collapse of the department
store in Seoul, South Korea, June 29, 1995, illustrated the fact
that there doesn't have to be an earthquake to justify needing
HUSAR resources. The Oklahoma City bombing showed that an established,
trained, and available national capacity for HUSAR can save lives,
relieve the suffering of families and friends, and locate essential
forensic evidence. The copycat bombing at the Charlottetown,
P.E.I. legislature and the 1995 Toronto subway crash alerted
Canadians to the fact that HUSAR resources could be required
in Canada. If the major earthquake predicted for the lower mainland
of British Columbia were to occur, studies done in 1989 for Canada
Mortgage and Housing Corporation indicate that 10-30% of residential
construction would become uninhabitable and up to 30% of transportation
routes unusable. Fifty to 100% of un-reinforced masonry buildings
would collapse. Up to 60% of older schools and hospitals (constructed
prior to 1940) that have not been strengthened would become unusable.
In a 1990 study, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation compared
the damage done in the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 with what
could be expected in the Greater Vancouver area following a major
concluded that the level of damage in the Greater Vancouver area
would be greater than that experienced in California, due primarily
to differences in seismic building codes and geology.
experience with earthquakes demonstrates that the rate of survival
for persons rescued from a collapsed building drops dramatically
day by day over the first four to five days, after which the
prospects of survival are extremely unlikely.
one source 81% of those rescued on the first day are likely to
survive. This rate drops to 34% on the second day and falls to
only 7% by the fifth day.
are not dissimilar to the Kobe HUSAR experience. In Oklahoma
City, no live rescues occurred after the first 24 hours following
the explosion. Eleven Teamed States USAR task forces were deployed
to Oklahoma City after the bombing.
of trained USAR Teams can reduce the number of deaths among untrained,
but enthusiastic rescuers. In the 1985 Mexico City earthquake,
more than 130 untrained rescuers died in their efforts to save
others. In Oklahoma City, one rescuer was lost and she was not
a member of a USAR Team.
rescue of survivors will not be the only measure of USAR success.
The extrication of deceased victims will allow the grieving process
to move to closure. In addition, trained USAR Teams are invaluable
in the collection of forensic evidence (as demonstrated in Oklahoma
There is an
extensive system of land, sea and air search and rescue resources
in Canada. The system is nation-wide, volunteer-based and is
among the best in the world. The same, however, cannot be said
In a situation
involving trapped and injured persons, local jurisdictions would
likely have to rely on locally available professional and volunteer
First Responders lacking the specialized heavy rescue training
and experience. They would rush to assist and could put both
the trapped and other rescuers at risk.
There are currently
exceptions to this situation in Canada. Across Canada HUSAR Teams
are being developed within a National Programme
to address this issue. Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal & Halifax
are all now at various stages of Team development. Vancouver was
Canada’s first deployable Team, certified in 2001. Vancouver’s
Team is comprised of two 48 member deployable group’s, drawn
from a number of different organizations within the City.
The Toronto HUSAR Team
is now available to deploy locally, provincially & nationally.
The Team now has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ontario
Provincial Government to respond into the Province, whenever required.
The Team is very similar to Vancouver’s Team, consisting
of a total 130 members when completely staffed. These members are
carefully selected city personnel from many departments. They are
specially trained and equipped to meet many types of challenges.
Toronto HUSAR is able to respond on a 7 day 24–hour (7/24)
basis with whatever level of support required by a local Incident
Commander. Toronto HUSAR is contracted to respond outside of Toronto
within 6 hours. Toronto HUSAR will respond to any community, province
wide, whose resources have been overwhelmed. As the National Programme
develops Toronto HUSAR is prepared to respond nationally throughout
Canada and internationally, when required