Dave Downey, a member of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department -- which pulled 11 survivors from the wreckage in Haiti -- and his colleagues from across the U.S. -- got a bi-partisan salute today from Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC.
"I've seen what you all do," Diaz-Balart said. "All of America is proud of you and grateful for your service."
Said Norton, "On behalf of the American people, we thank you ...for what you do under extraordinary circumstances."
Downey testified before a House Transportation subcommittee about the challenges of responding to the earthquake. He noted it took the team an entire day to find transportation for its members and 62,000 pounds of equipment. The team finally arrived in Haiti -- but its equipment "most essential to the mission" didn't arrive for another 36 hours. He noted the team's first rescue was accomplished with equipment loaned from Los Angeles.
And he said rescuers were hampered by a lack of logistics. The maps of Haiti used the first few days, he said, were 2006 tourist maps provided by the US Embassy. There were also transportation issues on the ground -- every search and rescue team was competing for a few vehicles at the embassy.
"In Haiti, hours were wasted every day trying to secure transportation," Downey said, suggesting that task forces should be deployed "as self-sufficient as possible."