Laurence J. Kaplan, born in
New York, shortly after birth moved and was raised in San Francisco. Graduated in 1985
from Dunn High School in Los Olivos, California. Graduated the San Francisco
Police Academy in 1991. Kaplan has volunteered in numerous programs including
the San Francisco Office of Emergency Services. Kaplan is a successful business
owner in San Francisco. Kaplan is married and is a proud parent of five children
(Four of his own).
After the Earthquake of 1989 in San Francisco, Kaplan saw a need to form an organization that can provide additional resources in time of need. Kaplan found out that there is so much interest in this type of organization it had become quite overwhelming. So many small sheriff departments, fire departments, search and rescue teams, agencies, organizations and other emergency service related groups are lacking the necessary funding, equipment and even manpower to save lives.
There are a lot of politics in saving lives. Some counties feel that they have enough resources and do not need help and others welcome additional resources and assets. It is not about Glory or who saved the life, it is about saving lives. "Some times we get criticized because we are not a government agency," Kaplan states. How many "non government" people saved lives in 911? It's about people coming together in time of need. It's about "Neighbors helping neighbors," "It's about stopping at that accident instead of driving by staring." America Search And Rescue has saved lives, found missing people and has provided an invaluable service to the community. America was built by volunteers, please do not forget that.
To date, no member has
ever profited from America Search And Rescue nor has anyone ever earned a dollar. One day,
if funding ever becomes available, maybe we can provide paid positions and in
fact help with creating jobs. We only survive by sponsors and member support. "We do not even have
funding to develop a website. We do everything ourselves," says Kaplan. "I fund
the website and most of the operating expenses are out-of-pocket," states Kaplan.
"Other organizations and charities that have misused its status and have
benefited off people have made it harder to raise funding and support but we are
not giving up," states Kaplan.
"Our organization is comprised of all walks of life. We have current and retired policemen, firemen, military, paramedics, EMTs and people without prior training or experience. We could have 85,000 members if we had funding. We turn away applications received from across the country and some international requests for membership. Since we have not expanded in all states nor have the funding to train, equip and accommodate new members in areas we have not expanded to, we sadly have to simply file away applications of potentially qualified individuals that can save lives. It is a shame we cannot accept everyone or most of the applications received. The way we see it, every person involved is one more person that can save a life," Kaplan explains.
Kaplan's personal interest is to develop a special team in San Francisco modeled after numerous other respected groups including the San Mateo's U.S.A.R. team that can be ready in case the "Big one" strikes.
"We have so many goals and have gained support from a lot of politicians and the public to achieve these goals. The demand is high but nobody wants to help pay for it, it gets quite frustrating," Kaplan states. "We have met with several politicians, government department heads and certain reputable individuals and we have set some high goals, including a facility in an undisclosed location that could in essence become a Major Coordination Center for search and rescue activities, major disasters or any other emergency. This type of facility could save hundreds if not thousands of lives. We have found gaps in the system that need filling," Kaplan states.
"At this point we would rather get a grant writer or a fundraiser than a rescuer," Kaplan sadly states.
Kaplan also told me that his organization plans on developing a fire response team, a road rescue team, a off road rescue team and few other volunteer divisions within America Search And Rescue.
Kaplan is seeking out business professionals to help build the structure of America Search And Rescue to allow its growth and expansion throughout the United States. "This organization can be as big as the American Red Cross," Kaplan stated.