STATEMENT OF JACK REALL,
OHIO TASK FORCE 1 URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM
Good Morning Gentleman and Gentle ladies, I am Jack Reall, Task Force Leader of Ohio Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team. On September 11, 2001, my team of 74 responded to the World Trade Center tragedy to assist with the rescue and recovery efforts. We arrived in Manhattan at 0600 hrs on September 12th †where we remained until September 19th. Our day shift crews were assigned to begin work immediately in the Liberty Sector on the Southwest quadrant of the Collapse area.
We assisted with confined space void searches, damaged building assessments, searches of surrounding structures, and breaching operations into the underground plaza levels.
During our operations, conditions at the site were hazardous at best. Dust and paper were everywhere during our stay. On night shift, when I worked, visibility was extremely limited due to the dust in the air reflecting light. While the paper became less of a problem throughout the 8 day period, dust and the smoke from the ever burning fires were always present.
During the first 24 to 36 hours of our deployment, respirators were difficult to obtain. We carry full-face cartridge respirators in our cache for confined space operations, however, during this deployment we recognized the need for half-face respirators due to the extended wear requirements. We were able to obtain half-face respirators through the various volunteer supply sections throughout the area after 36 hours.
At each of the daily briefings, hazards for the site were noted for the task forces to pay special attention. One day it was asbestos, the next day it was gamma radiation, and the next day it was failure of the slurry wall. Each of these was deemed less of a hazard after further investigation. However, early reports led us to believe we may have been exposed to any number of various lethal components. Because of these warnings, we strongly encouraged the use of the most appropriate level of Personal Protective Equipment available to us.
Upon our demobilization and return to Ohio, our greatest concern was for the psychological and emotional scars this deployment would have on our task force. It took almost two weeks for us to realize we were experiencing an increased number of illnesses. Fourteen of our members sought attention from a medical provider within weeks of the incident for respiratory ailments. Diagnoses ranged from Pneumonia to Reactive Airway Dysfunction Syndrome. One of our members was hospitalized for 5 days and treated aggressively for his symptoms. Another experienced a hernia due to excessive coughing. Many others experienced infections of a non-respiratory type, skin disorders and various other ailments. Almost every team member experienced hoarseness, gravely voice, and nasal blockage for many weeks after the incident.
Until the recent published reports in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, most of our members took their symptoms for granted. Fortunately, soon after our return one of our team doctors surveyed our members regarding their health and treatment. He found that our deployed members were 2.7 times more likely to require antibiotics for respiratory infections and 3.2 times more likely to require medical care than our non-deployed members. This information has been extremely helpful in educating our team about the need for appropriate medical surveillance.
During the development of the Urban Search and Rescue System, the primary focus was how to protect our members from failed structures that may collapse and trap us. For this we learned how to shore up buildings with wood to create safe areas to work. After Oklahoma City, we extended our focus to how to withstand the psychological and emotional effects of man-made disasters taking hundreds of lives. For this we learned how to strengthen the support network both pre- and post-deployment to enable us to keep the people we have trained. After September 11th, we must extend our focus to the unknown health effects our members will face in the short and long term future. For this we must be able to monitor their health completely from the time they join the team until they retire from the team and in all phases in between.
Our Urban Search and Rescue Teams function on a shoestring budget of $150,000 per year. $100,000 is eaten up immediately in fixed costs like insurance, utilities, and maintenance of equipment. The other $50,000 must be utilized to maintain training levels, provide basic protective equipment and plan for the times when we wonít be reimbursed for our expenses. That doesnít leave much room for a $1000 medical exam of 180 personnel.
The budget has put us in a catch-22 situation with the Department of Labor. Our members are repeatedly denied their coverage under Federal Workerís Compensation because we donít have enough data to create a causal relationship between the incident and the diagnosis. Yet, we donít have the funds to obtain full medical surveillance to provide that relationship. The member who spent 5 days in the hospital has just had his third denial for his claim overturned and approved for payment by the Department of Labor. He will be the first approval we have obtained, 1 year after that disastrous day. His claim was for less than 1000 dollars. We have wasted more money than that in the preparation of paperwork to tell him he was denied.
Our Urban Search and Rescue Teams have been available and on the scene of every major disaster since their introduction. Their members participate voluntarily to ensure every citizen in this country is given the best chances of survival in impossible situations. We should be able to ensure their safety whenever possible.
You and your colleagues have assisted us in our budget situation and have made funds available to deal with the aftereffects of September 11th. We appreciate that support. Those funds are just now becoming available. We need to be able to provide this support to our members not just today but tomorrow as well. Thank you.
Department of Emergency Medicine
Albert B.Sabin Way
Cincinnati Medical Centel
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to
you to express my surprise at your denial of the medical claim by Mr.
David Pickering for his hospitalization for pneumonia in October of last year. As did
almost all of the rescue workers, Mr. Pickering suffered from upper respiratory tract
symptoms during his deployment to the World Trade Center disaster in September of
2001. His pneumonia developed soon after his return,
and during the window in which
the upper airways of most rescue workers were still affected. With ciliary function in the
upper airways compromised by particulate matter inhaled on site at the Trade Centers,
Mr. Pickering's first line of defense against respiratory pathogens was rendered
ineffective, making him more susceptible to pneumonia.
As one of the physicians for Ohio
Task Force One, Mr. Pickering's USAR team, I can
personally attest to the health risks connected with the New York City deployment.
Some of these have been validated in a study which I performed on our team members in
the months after deployment. When compared to team members who did not deploy to
New York, personnel present in New York were found to have been 2.7 times as likely to
require antibiotics for respiratory infection, and 3.2 times as likely to require medical care
in the months following the deployment. These findings were presented in abstract form
at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Annual Meeting in St. Louis in May
I appreciate your attention to
this matter, and would be happy to answer any questions
you might have.
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of Cincinnati