Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Training

USAR stands for Urban Search and Rescue and is a specialized technical rescue mission focused on locating, extracting, and providing initial medical care to individuals trapped in urban environments.  These scenarios primarily include structural collapses resulting from natural calamities, conflicts, acts of terrorism, accidents, and collapsed trenches.

Trench Training

In the photos: While colleagues shore up the walls of the trench, trainees descend a ladder to the spot
where a dummy victim lies awaiting rescue.

It's trench time for the Key West Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue team.  First responders are out near the Hawk Missile Site, learning to safely extricate an accident victim from a deep trench.

"This vital training for our department," said Fire Chief Alan Averette, "but this also served double duty for Community Services.  Their crews came out and dug these trenches.  So both departments are benefiting."

The USAR team is equipped and ready for almost anything imaginable -- and sometimes the unimaginable.  The USAR team is an advanced rescue team trained and equipped to respond countywide to structural collapses, incidents in which victims are trapped, or in which there is a threat to the safety of first responders.

The training session is about USAR-certifying new firefighters and paramedics for the team.  National Rescue Consultants are conducting the training.

The USAR team has rescued people trapped in buildings after hurricanes.  Several years ago, they retrieved two victims in a construction collapse at Key West International Airport.  They saved a man crushed under tons of concrete when a cistern cover collapsed.

The team is often called upon to remove medical patients who cannot be transported typically, whether because they're in a loft or too large to be carried through a small doorway.  Special equipment and expertise are sometimes called upon to enhance vehicle extractions after an accident.


Sometimes, the swiftest method to evacuate a patient from a burning building involves descending its side.  The Urban Search and Rescue team of the Key West Fire Department is currently engaged in rappelling training: mastering ropes and pulleys to safely lower individuals away from danger.

Conducting their exercises from the uppermost floor of the Park N Ride on Caroline Street, they are perfecting techniques for managing the descent of their team members while ensuring safety.  Meanwhile, a designated team member takes on the role of the patient, granting each firefighter valuable experience in lowering a person down the exterior of a tall building.