FRANKFORT – Efforts are underway to improve statewide search and rescue resources, officials told members of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection in a meeting Nov. 8.
Every community in the state has the ability to respond to disaster, but only response agencies in Lexington and Louisville are equipped to provide heavy search and rescue efforts needed during large-scale disasters, Lexington Battalion Chief Gregg Bayer said.
This means much of the state is two to three hours away from some of the resources necessary to respond to tornadoes, flooding or other disasters, he said.
The Fire and Rescue Departments in Lexington and Louisville have partnered with the Office of Homeland Security and other state agencies to improve statewide resources and response time. Their goal is to serve any area of the state within an hour, he said.
“Response time is directly related to mortality and morbidity,” Bayer said.
To decrease response time, the group hopes to add four additional heavy search and rescue teams in higher-population areas across the state, he said.
All of the teams would complete nearly three hundred hours of additional training in areas like rope and water rescue, structural collapse and hazardous materials, and have access to specialized equipment for technical rescue, Bayer said.
According to Doug Recktenwald, Assistant Chief of the Louisville Fire and Rescue Department, the additional teams would give the state a high level of response capability and put Kentucky on par with surrounding states.
“We [have to] rely on resources outside our state to take care of large-scale incidents. We’re trying to get that ability within our state,” he said.
Recktenwald said that in order to achieve a statewide rescue team, the group would need a dedicated funding stream. Currently, the group has only received limited grant funding, he said.
According to the plan presented to lawmakers, a statewide rescue resource could be in place by 2014.