Kentucky to form statewide urban search and rescue team

Midwest Tornadoes
Posted at 11:07 PM, Mar 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-29 08:14:15-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentuckians will soon have a new team to count on in disasters. The Kentucky State Legislature and Governor Andy Beshear have authorized an urban search and rescue team to respond to towns across the state and beyond if necessary.

Captain Ryan Hogsten has been with the Lexington Fire Department since 1995. He also works with Ohio Task Force 1, doing search and rescue. He's worked disasters here in Kentucky and across the country, including the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida.

"Search and rescue's important to me because it's my calling. It's something my family has done for over 100 years and so it's been something that's in my blood," Hogsten said.

After the Western Kentucky tornadoes and the Eastern Kentucky flooding, Representative Mike Hart, a former firefighter, sponsored House Bill 157, which would create a Kentucky urban search and rescue team. The team would focus on areas not designated as wildlands. It wouldn't take the place of local agencies, but create a whole new one with members across the state under the direction of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management.

"In the flooding that happened this past summer, we had teams from all over the country, from Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, all come in to help us. It took anywhere from 12 to 24 hours for those types of teams to get here. If we have our own team here, we can get to those areas in less than six hours," Hogsten said. "These are the best-trained individuals that we'll have in the state of Kentucky. It allows us to get to our places faster by having us spread out throughout the state."

House Bill 157 passed both the House and Senate unanimously and Governor Beshear signed it into law Monday. The bill directs the Division of Emergency Management to submit a report of the draft policies, procedures, and regulations for the program before December 1, 2023.