Urban Search and Rescue Markings and Why You Should Know Them

What are Urban Search and Rescue Markings?

These markings are sprayed on the side of residences searched by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) responders. The markings meaning is broken down as follows:

  • Single Slash: This means that FEMA responders have gone inside and that a building search is in progress. This helps reduce duplication of search effort, and lets other responders know where their teams are searching.
  • X with Writing in Quadrants: This means that a search has been completed.
    • Left Quadrant: Search team's identifier "tag", usually a short acronym or military number.
    • Top Quadrant: Time and date search team left the building.
    • Right Quadrant: List of hazards present (if any)
    • Bottom Quadrant: Number of survivors and bodies found. Usually noted in that order: 0/0 for no survivors and no corpses.
  • X with a Box around it: This means "Do Not Enter", usually because it is dangerous.

Here is a photo essay with many examples from hurricane Katrina:

http://southernspaces.org/2010/katrina-5-x-code-exhibition

What does the mean for a resourceful Prepper in a SHTF scenario?

If you are out and about after a disaster, now you can easily see what is going on at buildings that have been searched. Seeing a single slash on a building could also let you know that a search party is near; whether you are looking to encounter them or not. You can visit friend's homes nearby and be able to tell if they were searched, what time, by who, and how many survivors and dead were found. That is a good amount of information for a little graffiti on the wall! That brings us to the second useful ability from knowing the FEMA markings. Not only can you read the markings, but if SHTF and gets real nasty, you can write a marking. A large X with a box around it on the side of your house tells search parties, the military, and others who know the markings that it is not safe to enter your house. Paired with light and noise discipline, this could be a great deterrent to intruders in a SHTF scenario. Since your house may not look particularly dangerous, tagging the FEMA X and filling in some info may be the better choice. It may be more believable that your house was searched and passed over already rather than just too dangerous to enter. A foolproof tag that most national guard units would use is simply your state abbreviation in the left quadrant. Keeping a can or two of spray paint in your disaster kit may be a good idea.

While all of this is good knowledge, I hope you never have to use it. The probabilities are slim that you encounter a disaster where these are used, but there is a chance knowing the Urban Search and Rescue markings could help. Check out our TrueRisk index for more likely scenarios, and make sure you are prepared for those as well. As always, stay prepared and stay safe.

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Urban Search and Rescue Markings

Rusty

I am an engineer by day, but a prepper 24/7. I am an Air Force veteran that developed emergency and disaster plans as an emergency manager and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters worldwide. Check out my full story here: Rusty’s Story

6 thoughts on “Urban Search and Rescue Markings and Why You Should Know Them

  • Pingback: Urban Search and Rescue Markings, and Why You Need to Know Them - SHTF & Prepping Central

  • June 26, 2016 at 9:26 pm
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    Here’s one you might not have considered…the Super Volcano known as Yellowstone. Forget New Madrid, that’s localized mud-spewers.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_Caldera

    The thing has a history of a major, caldera reconfiguring super-eruption every 630K years and it’s 10,000 years overdue right now. Think ash hundreds of miles into the atmosphere, hitching a ride on the jet streams and eventually falling to earth on a global pattern. Think ‘volcanic winter’. Think ‘inhaling volcanic ash and having it turn to cement in your lungs. I’ll leave you with these oh, so cheerful thoughts and let you look into it on your own.

    Reply
    • July 3, 2016 at 8:19 pm
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      The U.S. Geological Survey, University of Utah and National Park Service scientists with the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory maintain that they “see no evidence that another such cataclysmic eruption will occur at Yellowstone in the foreseeable future. Recurrence intervals of these events are neither regular nor predictable.” This conclusion was reiterated in December 2013 in the aftermath of the publication of a study by University of Utah scientists finding that the “size of the magma body beneath Yellowstone is significantly larger than had been thought.” The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory issued a statement on its website stating,

      Although fascinating, the new findings do not imply increased geologic hazards at Yellowstone, and certainly do not increase the chances of a ‘supereruption’ in the near future. Contrary to some media reports, Yellowstone is not ‘overdue’ for a supereruption. Other reports were hyperbolic.

      Reply
  • Pingback: Emergency Signals For When SHTF - Survival Frog Blog

  • August 1, 2017 at 6:47 pm
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    Rusty,

    This is one excellent article and I would love to get your permission to reprint it (with full accreditation and a link to your site) in my Dying Time Newsletter. I am also requesting permission to reprint the article that was linked to this one titled “6 Ways To Avoid Being Herded Into a FEMA Camp.

    Reply
    • August 1, 2017 at 6:49 pm
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      Ray, glad you found it useful. Feel free to reprint both with accreditation.

      Reply

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