British Columbia

Vancouver rescue team ready for Haiti

Vancouver's Urban Search and Rescue Team is ready to help with the search for earthquake victims in Haiti if called upon.
Members of Vancouver's Urban Search and Rescue Team say they are ready to help with the search for earthquake victims in Haiti if called upon. ((www.can-tf1.org))

Vancouver's Urban Search and Rescue Team is ready to help with the search for earthquake victims in Haiti if called upon.

A so-called "light team" of up to 30 people could reach the Caribbean island in as little as 16 hours if needed, city fire chief John McKearney told CBC News Wednesday.

"This light force team will not be a full deployment team," McKearney said.

"But this … team will be able to provide staff and expertise to assist the teams that are on the ground if requested in Haiti in the rescue operations."

Their primary job is to find and provide medical care to anyone trapped in debris, but the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team could play many different roles in Haiti depending on what's needed, according to assistant fire chief and task force leader Mark Engler.

"Door to door, it could be anything from structural collapse and search and rescue to simply being there as logistic support to other teams," Engler said.   The city of Vancouver acknowledged in December that the elite team had been disbanded and was being overhauled amidst allegations from some members of mismanagement, financial impropriety, and a lack of accountability.

Vancouver's city manager, Penny Ballem, said the unit had "lost its sense of clarity and focus".

The city conducted an internal review of the team, which resulted in at least three veteran members being released from their duties.

Emergency preparedness during the Olympics would not be put at risk if the team was called to Haiti, McKearney said.

The USAR team would only stay a maximum of three weeks and be back in Vancouver a week before the Games' opening ceremonies.

now