FEMA suspends Phoenix rescuers for having armed police officers protecting them

N8 v2.0

Not the sharpest tool in the shed
Oct 18, 2002
The Cleft of Venus
FEMA Suspends Phoenix Rescuers Over Arms
Oct 04 11:20 PM US/Eastern

PHOENIX - The Phoenix Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue team has been suspended by a federal agency because it brought armed police officers for protection on hurricane relief missions.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's conduct code prohibits urban search-and-rescue teams from having guns.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon called the reaction from FEMA "stunning, unbelievable, bewildering and outrageous."

Phoenix's team included four police officers who were deputized as U.S. marshals when they participated in relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

The team was credited with plucking more than 400 Katrina survivors from rooftops and freeway overpasses in flooded sections of New Orleans.

Phoenix officials are threatening to refuse deployments in the future or possibly pull out of the federal agency altogether unless the rules are changed to allow teams to bring their own security, even if that means police with guns.

Phoenix police were added to the team about a year ago, and officials say they are essential to protecting firefighters and FEMA's $1.4 million worth of equipment.

Assistant Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan said his department also is questioning the federal agency's ability to manage working conditions, security and communications.

"We have an obligation to provide the safest environment as we can," Khan said.

U.S. Marshal David Gonzales said he was dismayed by the suspension because the setup with the police officers seemed ideal.

"We think this was a model," he said. "We think all rescue teams should have armed escorts wherever they go, and we think this is something they should adopt nationwide."

FEMA relies on 28 elite teams like the Phoenix group to perform specialized rescue operations immediately after terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

According to the mayor, FEMA officials advised the team to bring U.S. marshals along on the initial trip.

After Hurricane Katrina struck, firefighters faced deployment to areas plagued by looting and lawlessness. Twice, Phoenix's team was confronted by law enforcement officers who refused to let them pass through their communities and told them to "get out or get shot," Gordon said.

Officials told the Phoenix team on Sept. 26 that their help was no longer needed after members of the group were seen embarking on a helicopter flight with a loaded shotgun while helping with the aftermath of Rita.


Ociffer Tackleberry
Feb 27, 2002
Blindly running into cactus
holy crap! talk about shooting yourself in the foot. The sucky thing about FEMA is that if you don't abide by their crappy plans and organization charts, you lose all federal funding. That's a killer for a lot of police agencies who depend on the funding for recruiting, training and equipment.

i hope phoenix pulls out and makes a HUGE stink about it so that maybe some of the rules will change. this is absolutely rediculous.

this system is like a bad rhythym section at a huge dirt jump park. what do you do w/ bad dirt jumps? you tear them down and rebuild them the right way. :dead:


Tube Smuggler
Sep 13, 2004
johnbryanpeters said:
I think that the whole armed camp mentality of some 'public service' groups is getting way out of hand. The Phoenix boys sound way off the mark.
I'd be afraid to walk around New Orleans even before the Hurricane. I think the key is they used restraint. They might have been armed, but they did not fire their weapons. Good enough for me.


Ociffer Tackleberry
Feb 27, 2002
Blindly running into cactus
johnbryanpeters said:
I think that the whole armed camp mentality of some 'public service' groups is getting way out of hand. The Phoenix boys sound way off the mark.

how so? food/water, which the rescuers had, become like gold in that situation. with the knowledge of looting and serious crime, would you send rescuers out with no protection and take the risk of the rescuers becoming victims of violent crime and/or losing all of their supplies? an armed guard, especially by trained, professional police officers, is an excellent deterent to those who would take advantage of the rescuers thus allowing them to do their job more efficiently w/out having to worry about being attacked.

i can't think of one bad reason for having an armed gaurd in that situation, it's not a free-for-all, just protection to get the job done.

FEMA's decision is nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to the reality of the situation.


Sep 29, 2004
SC mtns
There are lots of examples where fire crews have needed police protection in urban areas under unusual circumstances. What's really bizarre about the FEMA suspension is the details here.

I can understand why there would be a rule against volunteer fire fighters, search and rescue workers or paramedics arming themselves. If the situation warranted it, you'd send out security with the rescue crew. But it seems even better if the rescue crews have a security detail that they've already trained with

You read this story, and you see that it wasn't the rescue specialists who were armed; it was a police security detail they had brought with them, and that detail had been deputized as US Marshalls. So someone at the federal level had signed off on these folks having armed protection. In fact, the article says FEMA told Phoenix officials to bring US Marshalls, and that's what they did.