Emergency Management

Puget Sound USAR team gains access to unsearched voids
Posted By Sheri Badger on Sep 25th, 2001 at 11:11 AM

Tacoma, WA – September 25, 2001 – Maj. Tom Miner of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, who is in New York City with the Puget Sound Urban Search and Rescue Task Force (WATF-1), filed this report: Last night was a good night for all. The prior day shift was not so good. Day shift for WATF 1 was a lot of sitting and watching heavy equipment tear apart the building. The team was assigned to the west sector where the heavy equipment has easy access to the debris pile. This is very frustrating for all the rescue teams who have been assigned this sector. They hardly stop to allow any search of new void spaces. The other side, east sector, has only limited access and one crane. So there is much more work to be done by ground teams. They need to cut the steel beams before they can be lifted out one at a time and while that is being done much searching can be accomplished. Last night the team was assigned to the same area but convinced the FDNY chief that there were some voids that had not been searched and that they could reach if he would allow it. He did and sure enough our team was able to gain access to the lowest sub basement where they found large open areas including a trapped subway train. There were no survivors but they did find several victims in the debris on the periphery of the void space. The void had been reached by others but it had not been searched as thouroughly as our folks did. They were pulled out at the end of shift and other teams are continuing to search the further depths of the void. Everyone should be poud of the Washington team. They are asked for by the FDNY teams to assist them with the most difficult of tasks because we have been aggressive in our search for any possibly open space where people could have survived or where access can be made to recover remains. FDNY has produced its first incident Action Plan and we have some clear goals and objectives for everyone involved in the incident. My situation unit has been producing all of the maps, charts and briefing documents for FDNY, FEMA and most everyone else involved in the incident. We are making extensive use of GIS technology to produce quality maps, floorplans and to track search progress and damage to buildings.