“Task Force Times”

The Official Publication of the U.S. Search and Rescue Task Force

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December, 2002





United States Search and Rescue Task Force

For outstanding leadership and commitment to

the Employees of the United States Government

December 12, 2002

“How much can we as
emergency responders tolerate?”
By: Jerry Smith, Managing Editor

Consider the emotional forces upon us as we find members of our own family in the carnage. Would this create an incomprehensible event for anyone to keep his or her emotions intact, and under control? Do you believe an incident of this magnitude is just too personal for any human being to endure?

One can only imagine the disarming of one's emotional armor this horrendous incident would suddenly present to first responders. That protective barrier that surrounds our emotional well being; an invisible shield that allows us to perform even under the most devastating of circumstances.

Is it possible that some of us have more adaptable exteriors allowing us to block out or ignore the more serious traumatic attachments?

What was the mounting emotional pressure that surely overwhelmed Captain Steve Roe?

As he approached the crash scene did he recognize the vehicle as belonging to his family?

One would think/believe that no loved one would remain functional at the scene of an incident involving mortally injured family members.

How much can we as emergency responders tolerate before we collapse from conscious stress overload or succumb to the delayed affects of sub-conscious critical incident stress syndrome?

If we understood the conflict that empowers both the conscious and subconscious minds, we might reach a better understanding of how we as individuals manage the affects of such traumatic emotional stress.

I don't pretend to be a mental health expert. However, I do understand the power of my subconscious mind and how unruly it can become when I experience anxiety and uneasiness. I do see the adenalin kicking in for Steve to save his one surviving child.We use our conscious mind when we knowingly think or do something.Something like the working of our heart is not under conscious control. It is the power of the sub-conscious mind that makes our heart beat about 72 times per minute regularly for up to 100 years.

The sub-conscious mind is much more powerful than the conscious mind. But it is not under our direct control, it's more or less out of control.It functions on the basis of information stored in it. It stores all kinds of information since the day the child is born. It even stores information that you are not consciously aware of. The sub-conscious contains all of the emotional and cognitive experience of a lifetime, whether pleasurable, ordinary or traumatic.

Experts tell us: “Stress is the general response of our bodies to any unusual demand made on it whether it be pleasant or unpleasant, emotional or physical. Damaging stress occurs when the challenges experienced become too much for that person at that time.”One has to believe Captain Roe became an immediate victim of stress overload. A horrible event that killed all but one child in his family.Reminds me of that nagging feeling of anxiety that overcomes our senses when something out of the ordinary comes upon us. It might an emergency incident where suddenly we're confronting fear, a threatening situation that causes that fight or flight response to kick in.

There isn't an emergency responder who hasn't experienced anxiety, the uncertainty of a firefighter operating in unstable atmospheres, or a paramedic treating a struggling, bleeding drug addict. That police officer involved in a domestic dispute that turns violent. For an active career that sees much activity on the streets of emergency response, it all adds up, and should not be under estimated as a contagious work related illness/disease that plays favorites or knows no boundaries.

How do we know when we are entering overload? Experts call it that breaking point when collapse may be imminent. You feel much anxiety, depressed, your muscles may be tied in knots, a throbbing headache.You know the feeling we've all been there a time or two. However, it's usually only a temporary bout with accumulated stress of some kind.They tell us if untreated, the adverse affects of too much stress could transform into harmful changes in our behavior and physical health, and that's when the red flags should be raised.

You as a supervisor should be attentive to your crew and their behavior after a tough incident.  As experienced emergency responders we know our crews operate with varying individual limits to the pressures and workloads they experience.  It's not that difficult to spot someone in crisis so we are told by the experts as you are about to read and I quote.

RECOGNIZING SYMPTOMS: “Critical incidents may produce a wide range of stress symptoms, which may appear immediately at the scene, a few hours later or within days of the incident. Stress symptoms usually occur in four different categories: Cognitive (thinking), Physical (body), Emotional (feelings) and Behavioral (actions). The more symptoms experienced, the more powerful the stress reaction. The longer the symptoms persist, the more potential there is for lasting harm. The following is only a sample of stress symptoms that can show up after a critical incident.”

Cognitive: “Poor concentration, poor attention span, slowed problem solving, memory problems, difficulty making decisions and difficulties with calculations. Emotional: Guilt, depression, loss of emotional control, grief, anxiety, fear, feeling lost and feeling overwhelmed.”

Physical: “Muscle tremors, gastro-intestinal distress, headaches, chest pain, difficulty breathing and elevated blood pressure.”

Behavioral: “Excessive silence, unusual behaviors, withdrawal from contact, sleep disturbances, changes in eating habits and changes in work habits.”
Sources: States Search and Rescue Task Force)

If you are helping someone who has experienced critical incident stress, the ICISF suggests doing the following until further help can be obtained:

“Limit exposure to sights, sounds and odors – Provide an immediate rest break of at least 15 minutes – Have a friend stay with the distressed person – Provide fluids, non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated – Provide foods low in salt, sugar and fat – Allow the person to talk about the experience – Do not rush the person to return to work – Protect the person from bystanders and the media – Reassure the person that the stress experience is normal – Most people recover very well from stress – Show appreciation for the person's work – Do nothing to embarrass the person – Help the person make decisions.”

God bless you Steve Roe, your public safety brothers and sisters around the world grieve with you and may you find some comfort in the difficult days ahead.GOD BLESS AMERICA

Jerry Smith, a former Los Angeles City Fire Captain and California Governor's Office of Emergency Services Fire & Rescue Division Assistant Chief, retired from active service in 1987. After 40 years, he is still active in fire-rescue service affairs.

Jerry is also the WebBoard Administrator for the Emergency Grapevine, an “all-risk” message forum for emergency response and recovery personnel around the world. A public safety web site established in August 1997.

Recently, Jerry Smith was listed as a staff writer for the award winning Los Angeles Firefighter. Official publication of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City – Local 112, IAFF, AFL-CIO-CLC.

We Shall Not Forget Those That Died
September 11, 2001

October, 2002


October 7, 2002

Dear Chief Marantz:

For the eleven months that I was in charge of the World Trade Center Debris Recovery Site, I had the opportunity to meet and work with many outstanding individuals.  I wanted to take an opportunity to thank you for your support and assistance during this tragic time in our country's history on behalf of the dedicated men and women assigned to the Fresh Kills Landfill.

As you know, on September 11, 2001, Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and New York Police Department (NYPD) detectives were dispatched to the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, New York to process the debris of the World Trade Center (WTC) for physical evidence and human remains.  This recovery effort, the largest and longest in the FBI's history, resulted in 1.8 million tons of debris being collected and examined by twenty-four federal, state, and local agencies.  On September 12, 2001, I was designated to lead and coordinate this effort as an Evidence Response Team (ERT) Leader.  This operation ceased in August 2002.

I would like to formally thank you for your support of our operation.  I know that you have witnessed first hand the dedication of the men and women of the WTC Recovery Site and I hope that you have shared your experience with others that may not have been able to see this joint operation.  The efforts of everyone involved in the investigation were greatly appreciated.  I hope that the teamwork displayed by all of the agencies was evident and that should you ever need our services or our help, that you will not hesitate to call upon the FBI.  Thank you again for your assistance and support.

Sincerely yours,

Richard B. Marx, Special Agent

July 2002


July 2, 2002

Dear Chief Labov:

I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your outstanding service as Chief of the United States Search and Rescue Task Force.

Your recent commendation by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is certainly well deserved.  The sacrifices that you and your team have made to make our country and community safer are certainly worthy of special recognition.

I wish you the best of health, success and happiness as you continue to serve the public.  Best personal wishes.

Very truly yours,

Jon D. Fox, Esquire – United States Congress

June  2002


On May 28, 2002, the United States Search and Rescue Task Force was honored by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  All Task Force personnel should feel proud and honored to be recipients of this great honor due to their hard work and perseverance.  The Citation reads as follows:


The House of Representatives


Whereas, The United States Search and Rescue Task Force is a Pennsylvania-based, not-for-profit volunteer rescue and disaster response department.  September 11, 2001, saw the worst terrorist attack on United States soil and the United States Search and Rescue Task Force was requested to assist in this mission.  In the finest tradition of a volunteer rescue department, it assisted by supplying materials, personnel and equipment for the good of this nation; and

Whereas, The efforts of the United States Search and Rescue Task Force helped in the support, search, rescue and recovery operation of victims in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and is commended upon its ongoing mission and the expert ability, dedication and professionalism of its members.  President George W. Bush has mandated that four hundred thousand civilians be trained and qualified under the Homeland Security Program, and the United States Search and Rescue Task Force has undertaken the task of training these individuals for the benefit of this Commonwealth and nation; and

Whereas, The members of the United States Search and Rescue Task Force have brought great credit to themselves, their communities, this Commonwealth and nation.

Now therefore, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania proudly salutes the members of the United States Search and Rescue Task Force; proudly notes the courageous work they have accomplished;

And directs that a copy of this citation, sponsored by the Honorable Ellen M. Bard on April 18, 2002, be transmitted to the United States Search and Rescue Task Force.

Ellen M. Bard, Sponsor

Matthew Ryan, Speaker of the House

Ted Mazia, Chief Clerk of the House


Pictured (L to R) displaying the House of Representatives Citation:

Chief of Public Affairs David C. Marantz, Honorable Ellen M. Bard, Chief Steven L. Labov and Assistant Chief William R. Ludwig, III

May  2002


On May 11, 2002, the United States Search and Rescue Task Force was honored by Governor Parris N. Glendening of the State of Maryland.  All Task Force personnel should feel proud and honored to be recipients of this great honor due to their hard work and perseverance.  The Citation reads as follows:


Governor of the State of Maryland to


Be it Known:  That on behalf of the citizens of this State,

in recognition of your organizations assistance in the support, search, rescue and recovery operation of victims in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and in honor of your ongoing mission and the expert ability, dedication and professionalism of your members;  your willingness, perseverance and service to train other persons under the President's new Homeland Security directive; and as an expression of our high regard and sincere appreciation for the courageous work your members have accomplished, we are pleased to confer upon you this


Given Under My Hand and the Great Seal of the State of Maryland this 11th day of May, 2002

Parris N. Glendening, Governor

John T. Willis, Secretary of State



Pictured (L to R) displaying the Governor's Citation:

Chief of Public Affairs David C. Marantz, Chief Steven L. Labov and Assistant Chief William R. Ludwig, III

February  2002


By Christine Caruso – Staff Reporter

The Cecil Whig

Representatives of the Pleasant View Baptist Church in Port Deposit, MD and churches from surrounding areas decided to form Maryland's first Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

During a major disaster the first responders who provide fire and medical aid cannot always meet the demand for care.  Factors such as the number of victims, communication failures, and roadblocks often prevent accurate assessment of the emergency services needed immediately.

However, when spontaneous volunteers come to aid a victim, they are often untrained and end up hurting themselves as well.  Through CERT, individuals will be better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath of a disaster.

CERT is a good program – it is the only federal program of its nature that the public can take.  It helps to fill in the gap between fire and EMS services during an emergency.

Following President Bush's urging for citizens to become prepared for major disasters, Jill and Thomas Lee of Rising Sun met with fellow church members at Pleasant Valley Baptist in the hopes of obtaining CERT certification.

“When Peach Bottom is minutes from where you live, you need to be prepared,” Jill Lee said.  “So, I made some phone calls to see what kind of training we could receive.

The program also sparked the interest of 20-year old Adam Cowan of North East, who said he was interested in search-and-rescue prior to CERT and was excited about joining the team.

“If there is a flood or an earthquake around here, I will be able to give assistance,” Cowan said. “I just like doing this type of stuff.”

To graduate from CERT, volunteers must spend two eight-hour days in training.  Jill Lee said the first day consists of a series of educational sessions that instruct them on disaster preparedness, fire suppression, medical operations, search and rescue, and psychology.  During the second day, the team uses this knowledge to handle disaster simulations.

“I am pretty excited, and a bit apprehensive,” Jill Lee said as she paired with Tom to put out a small gasoline fire.  “I could not do this without my husband.  We are a team.”

Standing in front of her partner, Barbara Kelly of Rising Sun pulled down her goggles and edged toward the fire.  Surrounded in white powder and black smoke, she lifted up her hat and smiled.

“The more people are trained, the less people will get hurt,” Kelly said.  “We have to do our share, so we can feel safe in our own communities.”

April 2001


StudyWeb, one of the largest on-line educational and academic sites has awarded the Task Force their ‘Academic Excellence Award' for the Task Force web site having presented quality educational content in a child safe environment.  In part, the announcement and publication reads:

“Do you know what a Tsunami is, and how to respond should one be headed your way?   The terrific “Reference & Education”  section of this site provides you with the facts and the information you need to survive natural disasters, as well as basic safety information to keep you safe at home, work, and on the road.   You can also see first-hand the impressive work of the special task force units run by the U.S. Search and Rescue Task Force.  (”

March, 2001




Emergency Services Award

PC Online News Outstanding Web Site Award

Police Guide Award For Excellence

F.F.M. – Best SAR Site Award

Study Web – Academic Excellence Award

Tennessee State Trooper Award For Excellence in Law Enforcement Design

Aloha Magazine – Excellent Web Site Award

And More !

February, 2001

– Firehouse Magazine –



January, 2001

The United States Search and Rescue Task Force

By John M. Eller

Appearing in “The Delaware County Times”

January,  2001

Survival and Search & Rescue Dogs

By Chief Steven L. Labov

Appearing in “The Guardian”

The official publication of the Women's Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

December, 2000

Listed in Fred Langa's (Windows Magazine) December, 2000 issue as one of “the” professional web sites to see.

United States Search and Rescue Task Force

November, 2000

As it appeared in “Emergency Partner Postings”

The official publication of the

“Emergency Information Infrastructure Partnership”  sponsored by FEMA

The United States Search and Rescue Task Force new web site includes educational material for the public and public safety agencies in search and rescue and disaster response, as well as making it a one stop site for research.  Information on the Task Force can be reviewed as well as many topics such as critical incident stress management, the FEMA Community Emergency Response Team, children's educational games, a full search and rescue/disaster glossary, terrorist incidents, wildland fires, natural disasters, hundreds of links to other agencies, departments and organizations and a memorial to fire, police and rescue officers as well as the USS Cole.  See  For any questions about the Task Force, contact

September, 2000

As it appeared in “Emergency Partner Postings”

The official publication of the

“Emergency Information Infrastructure Partnership” sponsored by FEMA

The United States Search and Rescue Task Force adds two specialty units thereby expanding services to Region 1 (PA, NJ, DE, MD and VA).

  • July 2000:  A 12-member team was promoted to the rank of “Ranger” to form the elite Ranger Unit, known for dedication, perseverance, professionalism and expertise in their related fields.  Ranger requirements include a minimum of five years of public service (police, search and rescue, fire, military), 2 years active emergency response/search and rescue/disaster relief service and a minimum of 350 hours of specialty training including certification in several areas such as Search Management and Critical Incident Stress Management.
  • August 2000:  A 15-member team were trained as Critical Incident Stress Management Specialists.  These Specialist (including Psychologists) are now ready to assist in stress management, stress debriefing and peer support during and after major incidents.The Task Force also conducted a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Community Emergency Response Team training program this month with students from three states.  For further information, contact the Task Force at, 215-922-7225 – PO Box 11292, Elkins Park, PA 19027 or at their web site location at:



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