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Virginia Search and Rescue Team deployed to Gulf States for Hurricane Dennis

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Release Number: HQ-05-147

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A search and rescue team from Virginia has been deployed to the Gulf Coast region to assist in the response to Hurricane Dennis. The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is dispatching Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams to assist in any life-saving operations that may be needed as a result of the storm.

"FEMA is coordinating the deployment of federal resources to the region to help state and local governments respond to this dangerous storm. The search and rescue teams can provide invaluable support to the response effort," said Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response.

Virginia Task Force 2, based in Virginia Beach, is deploying a full team of 70 specialists. Other teams from Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas have also been activated for Hurricane Dennis. The teams will deploy as needed into affected areas after Hurricane Dennis moves through the region.

"We have a full range of staff and equipment ready to assist local and state first responders with any search and rescue operation that may become necessary as a result of this storm," said Mark Piland, task force leader for Virginia Task Force 2.

US&R task forces have 70 specialists along with canine members, and are divided into six major functional elements: search, rescue, medical, hazmat, logistics and planning. Each task force is divided into two 35-member teams, which allows for the rotation and relief of personnel for round-the-clock search and rescue operations. FEMA establishes policy and coordinates the 28 US&R teams across the country.

US&R task forces have responded to numerous large-scale disasters including the Northridge earthquake in 1994 and the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in 2001. US&R teams were also mobilized to respond to hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region in 2004.

FEMA prepares the nation for all hazards and manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, trains first responders, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.