For most, heading to a disaster zone is not a new experience. Some team members just returned from New Zealand, where they helped in earthquake recovery efforts there.
There are 74 members of L.A. County's USAR team headed to Japan. That's about one third of the entire team. They are taking 45,000 pounds of equipment with themm including pneumatic lifts, boats to deal with flooding, and canines that will help them search for survivors.
"It's similar to Katrina for us because we are working in flooded areas," said Dep. Chief Dave Stone from Los Angeles County Fire. "But it is also similar to Haiti, where we are working with buildings on the ground. So I look at this as a combination of two disasters. And so for us, this is going to challenge us."
The USAR team was deployed to New Zealand recently, and some of the members that just got back Thursday will be heading straight to Japan.
"We have enough people, so not the whole team who went to New Zealand is going again," said Capt. Bryan Wells from L.A. County Fire. "So with that experience of being in New Zealand and Haiti, we can have those people come along and help to mentor some of the people who haven't gone before."
They will be joined by the only other team in the United States that makes these international trips, the rescue team from Fairfax, Virginia.
"Once we have determined that the rescue phase is over, we actually help out with setting up water systems," said Stone. "We will hand out food and blankets to people, we have three doctors on our team."