Joint FDNY-NYPD Haiti rescue team honored

January 26, 2010 3:13:21 PM PST
Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday recognized New York Task Force One for their life-saving work in Haiti. The task force is the city's Federal Emergency Management Agency-sponsored (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue team composed of specially-trained personnel from the New York City Fire and Police Departments.

Bloomberg awarded each team member a certificate of recognition to thank them for their service.

"We are glad to have the members of our Urban Search and Rescue Team, who worked on the frontlines of the global rescue effort in Haiti, back home, safe and sound," Bloomberg said. "There's an awful lot of work ahead in Haiti, and an awful lot of mourning, but today, we thought it was important to recognize the members of Task Force One, who've made us proud once again."

The crew successfully rescued six people from collapsed buildings in Port-au-Prince.

One night, the team had already gone to base camp, but rushed back when they heard about some trapped kids. An 8-year-old boy was pulled by the team from the rubble, and thanked his rescuers with a big hug and a big smile.

The rescue team also saved a little girl buried in the same massive pile of rubble. However, earlier that same evening, the team made a grim discovery and recovered the bodies of three other children from the site.

The task force arrived in Haiti completely self-reliant. They brought their own shelter, food and equipment.

"The entire team deserves our gratitude and admiration for the heroic work they did in Haiti under extremely difficult circumstances, and we are enormously proud of what they accomplished on this mission," FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said. "While highly skilled and experienced in this type of dangerous work, the challenges facing them in the aftermath of this devastating earthquake were particularly daunting."

The certificate presented to each team member reads:

"For your selfless and heroic service in Haiti to those affected by the terrible earthquake. In dedicating your time, training, and skill to New York Task Force One, and in committing yourself to help wherever tragedy strikes, you truly represent the very best of our City's spirit of compassion and community. On behalf of all New Yorkers, we are grateful for your safe return and thank you for a job well done."

The team members conducted six rescues, including their first rescue within hours of arriving in Haiti. The team is trained in the use of specialized equipment including listening devices that can detect a heart beat, motion detection devices that can detect the smallest movements, and thermal imaging cameras and search cameras for use in confined spaces. Eighty members of New York Task Force One, trained to respond to catastrophic events involving the collapse of heavy steel and concrete, spent one week in Haiti.