The US Army Corps of Engineers Urban Search & Rescue Program (US&R Program) deploys specially trained and equipped structural engineers (Structures Specialist Cadre) to augment FEMA US&R Task Forces, Incident Support Teams, military technical rescue organizations, and general-purpose troops during structural collapse incidents and other disaster response missions.
- This rescue engineering capability provides technical support and advice to task force leaders and commanders to assess damage, mitigate hazards, enable safe entry, and assure mobility throughout a disaster site to enable rescue and lifesaving operations.
- The US&R Program develops doctrine, training programs, and national standards for structural collapse response operations, conducts initial training courses, advanced coursework, exercises, and continuing education for ALL Structures Specialists (StS) from USACE, FEMA and State US&R Task Forces and others, under Emergency Support Function (ESF) #9 of the National Response Framework.
- On order, the program also deploys its Cadre to conduct heavy structural assessments, in support of ESF #3 requirements and other military/civil contingency requirements (e.g., 2006-2022 Hurricanes, 2017/18 Wildfires, 2019 Ridgecrest EQ, COVID-19 Missions).
Additional Mission Capabilities:
- Provide technical assistance to local jurisdictions regarding rescue efforts.
- Provide other agency technical support (e.g., FBI, DEA, ATF, NIST, etc.).
- Support to the HQ USACE Civil Military Emergency Preparedness Program, and other international requirements.
Background: The National US&R Response System was established in response to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. USACE was formally tasked by US Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) in 1991 to develop a cadre of specially trained structural engineers for worldwide response. The pilot training course was conducted in 1992, when formation of the USACE Structures Specialist Cadre was initiated. Notable deployments include Oklahoma City Bombing (1995), the World Trade Center (2001), the Haiti earthquake response (2010) and the Champlain Tower Collapse in Surfside, FL 2021.
The HQ USACE US&R Program is managed out of SPD and maintains a Cadre of StS from across the USACE Enterprise. The “Structures Specialist” position is a formal position on a FEMA US&R Task Force, which has intensive rescue and disaster engineering training and certification requirements. The StS brings engineering expertise to the US&R Task Force. They receive specialized instruction in structural collapse patterns, hazard identification, building monitoring, rapid assessment of buildings, building triage and marking systems, advance shoring and shoring calculations. The StS position has also become standard in many State and Military rescue organizations.
Urban Search and Rescue is a dangerous undertaking conducted in fully or partially collapsed structures in austere environments. These structures are typically multi-storied, containing heavy debris with a high potential for additional collapse. The StS evaluates damaged structures and hazards in order to mitigate and reduce risks to rescue personnel and victims during rescue operations. StS deploy within 6 hours of notification with an equipment cache and are able to self-sustain for 72 hours to a limited degree. Mission durations are typically 6-10 days for 24/7 lifesaving operations.
FEMA can deploy a Type 1 Task Force, which includes only 2 StS for continuous 24-hr operations. Large scale, heavy structural disaster missions require much more disaster engineering resources, which the USACE US&R Program provides. The USACE StS Cadre is an essential component of FEMA US&R Task Forces and many other partners.