Local Rescue Team Headed to Alaska

Press Release -- March 26, 2014

Post date: Jul 3, 2014 3:32:48 AM

California Task Force 3 (CA-TF3), one of the Nation’s 28 elite Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Teams, supported by the California Office of Emergency Services (CAL-OES) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is on the move and headed to Alaska to participate in operation Alaskan Shield 2014.

CA-TF3 is best known for high risk operations at the Oklahoma City Bombing, World Trade Center Collapse, Northridge Earthquake and Hurricane Katrina along with assistance in finding the astronauts of the space shuttle Columbia, helping with the initial response to the San Bruno gas main explosion and dozens of other small and large emergency events locally around the Nation.

Sponsored by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, the task force is comprised of civilian professionals such as doctors, dog handlers, structural engineers, crane riggers, communications experts and hazardous material experts from SRI and Genentech along with firefighters from Menlo Park, South San Francisco, San Mateo, Redwood City, Woodside, Central San Mateo County, Mountain View, Santa Clara City and County, San Jose and Monterey.

Operation Alaskan Shield has been in the planning stages for two years but CA-TF3 was only notified two days ago when the Washington State US&R Task Force that had been scheduled to attend was requested to respond to the Snohomish mud-slide. Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said “I received a two minute heads up phone call, then was on a two hour take it or leave it conference call and once we did the funding math, surveyed our management team to see if we were all in and said yes to the mission, it’s been two days of non-stop preparation which will be followed by two days of flying, non-stop operations in Alaska and then flying home and demobilizing. Essentially, our folks are in their comfort zone of controlled chaos – right where we want them to be in preparation for a real emergency”!

In Alaska the team will test their cold weather clothing, specific tools and equipment and participate in joint operations with National Guard and Anchorage Fire Department on a debris pile simulating a collapsed structure due to an earthquake or Tsunami using their search gear, search dogs and technical rescue operations and personnel. CA-TF3 will assemble at 3 am Thursday, 72 Team members will travel to Travis Air Force Base that morning by bus and fly out on a C-17 military aircraft to Elmendorf – Richardson Air force base in Anchorage Alaska. Once the team establishes its base of operations it will participate in 24 hours of consecutive operations meant to challenge the teams ability to coordinate and work in support of local responders and command and control elements. The team is anticipated to then fly home Saturday and be fully demobilized by Sunday.

Chief Schapelhouman said “this is an incredible honor for our team, sobered by the fact that we are replacing another rescue team that is at this moment searching for survivors of a mud slide in Washington State and memorializing the 50th anniversary of the great Alaskan Earthquake and tragedy that affected the Western United States. The team knows that they are ambassadors for not only for themselves, CA-TF3 and the Bay Area, but also the great State of California and we all take that very seriously”.