Few are chosen. Few can comply. That’s the case in the selfless and crucial role as a volunteer member of the New Jersey Task Force One, Urban Search and Rescue, where Dr. Mark Butler of University Orthopaedic Associates is one of the six physicians on the medical staff since 2006, which also includes 16 paramedics and three nurses.
According to the New Jersey Task Force One Website: “It is the primary mission of New Jersey Task Force One to provide advanced technical search and rescue capabilities to victims trapped or entombed in structurally collapsed buildings.” In addition, Dr. Butler’s training for The Task Force has been done in trains inside tunnels, and includes advanced swift water rescue. The New Jersey Task Force 1, staffed by almost all volunteers, is one of 26 such teams in the U.S. and one of the largest in the country.
Following an initial two week intensive basic training course with the Task Force, Dr. Butler spends at least 10 to 12 full days per year training in such tasks as administering medical attention in a simulated 600-foot collapsed tunnel, where physicians must learn to extract patients with crushed limbs—a delicate and complicated task that requires extraordinary expertise, especially in order to prevent death immediately following extraction.
In addition, Dr. Butler spends countless hours as a swift water boat operations person and swift water rescue instructor. This makes sense, as among his vast number of talents, Dr. Butler was a competitive Division 1 collegiate swimmer, and still swims recreationally 5 days a week, a mile and a half per session. While Dr. Butler, also certified in vertical rope rescue, has never rescued an entrapped victim in a real-life collapsed structure situation, he has used his lifelong water experience helping for three days straight in the last season’s hurricane-caused floods in Paterson, NJ. The three-day mission resulted in recognition for the team by Governor Christie.
While he speaks modestly of his grueling training and constant devotion to the Task Force, he is most enthusiastic about other talented volunteers. “The people I work with are wonderful; I really enjoy working with them. They come from all walks of life—firefighters, HAZMAT specialists, search specialists working with their dogs, communications experts, and OEM (Office of Emergency Management) personnel, and many other talented and selfless individuals.” Dr. Butler admits that like others, he was inspired to get involved through tragedy. “9/11 affected everyone in their own way.” New Jersey Task Force 1 was the first team at the World Trade Center, since so many emergency personnel from New York City were affected.
Dr. Butler supplements his Task Force involvement in an annual drill—three to five days, including a period of 48 hours straight, in a real-life scenario. “Doing these rescues, even in training, is extraordinarily hazardous,” he says, “Theoretically, we are in confined spaces made safe, but many things can happen for the team and victims. In one of our trainings, I sent four people to the hospital for smoke inhalation.”
It takes a special person—free of claustrophobia or fear of heights, highly-skilled and with a courageous and calm demeanor—to be a member of the New Jersey Task Force One. His combination of medical experience from his 22-year-career, all of it with University Orthopaedic Associates, as well as his personality and character make Dr. Butler just that kind of person.Leave a reply →