Engineers as First Responders
When disaster strikes, search-and-rescue comes first. Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams are first responders for disasters in the built environment. Civil and structural engineers have served on USAR teams since 1990. Engineers are needed on these teams because we know the terrain of the built environment — we design buildings, bridges, roadways and dams. When infrastructure fails and people are injured or cut off from help, USAR Engineers are on the teams that reach and rescue them. This work has come into sharp focus recently at disasters ranging from collapsed buildings, to industrial explosions, to entire regions damaged by earthquakes and hurricanes. Man-made failures may stem from faulty design or construction, deferred maintenance, overloads, or terrorist attacks.
USAR engineering is a fascinating and relatively new discipline, and one that many engineers have never heard about. We believe this subject will be of intense interest to many of our ASCE members. One of our aims for the presentation is to kindle this interest, especially in our younger ASCE demographic, for training and serving as engineer first-responders. USAR is one more way engineers can serve our communities and nation. Our presentation will explore how engineers become involved in USAR, how they train and deploy, and how they make the critical adjustments in mindset that disaster engineering demands. We have a combined 30 years of USAR engineering experience with service at dozens of disaster sites including Katrina, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Surfside.