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Urban search & rescue

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The Costa Mesa Fire Department is fortunate to have an urban search and rescue vehicle.


 USAR page pic
Not every city is able to provide this level of service due to staffing, budgets, vehicle maintenance, and vehicle storage. Currently, the apparatus is housed at Fire Station 4 on Placentia Avenue and is staffed by the crew at that station.
The apparatus is a California Type I Heavy Rescue. This requires a large complement of equipment to maintain that level, and more importantly the firefighters working that assignment are required to have training in rope rescue, confined space rescue, trench shoring, auto extrication/stabilization, swift water rescue, building shoring, weapons of mass destruction (terrorism) and hazardous materials.
If the urban search and rescue vehicle is needed within Orange County, four urban search and rescue vehicle trained firefighters are required to respond. If it responds out of county, it is required to have a minimum of six trained firefighters.
The urban search and rescue vehicle is part of a master mutual aid (state resource), meaning that it can be requested to respond anywhere in the state for disasters. Beyond being a rescue vehicle, the apparatus is also utilized as a light/air unit, meaning it can provide 40,000 watts of electricity for lighting and power at emergency scenes and refill firefighters' air bottles.
Much of the equipment on the urban search and rescue vehicle has been purchased with federal grants. Urban search and rescue is considered a multi-hazard discipline, as it may be needed for a variety of hazards, including earthquakes, cyclones, storms, tornadoes, floods, dam failures, technological accidents, terrorist activities, and hazardous materials releases.
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Urban search and rescue vehicle history
In the early 1980s, the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue and Metro-Dade County Fire Department created elite search-and-rescue teams trained for rescue operations in collapsed buildings. Working with the United States State Department and Office of Foreign Disaster Aid, these teams provided vital search-and-rescue support for catastrophic earthquakes in Mexico City, the Philippines and Armenia.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established the National Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Response System in 1989 as a framework for structuring local emergency services personnel into integrated disaster response task forces. In 1991, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) incorporated this concept into the Federal Response Plan (now the National Response Plan), sponsoring 25 national urban search-and-rescue task forces. Events such as the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon thrust FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams into the spotlight.

Their important work transfixed a world and brought a surge of gratitude and support. CMFD’s USAR is a state resource staffed and equipped to conduct round-the-clock search-and-rescue operations following earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, aircraft accidents, hazardous materials spills and catastrophic structure collapses.

These first responders consistently go to the front lines when your city needs them most. We should be proud to have them as a part of our community. Not only are these first responders a state resource that can be deployed to a major disaster or structural collapse anywhere in the state. They are also the local firefighters who answer when you call 911 at home in your local community.