U.S. crew familiar with disasters awaits Nepal orders

Nepal earthquake puts American first-responde... 01:40

LOS ANGELES -- The United States government immediately put dozens of American first-responders on alert after Saturday's deadly earthquake in Nepal. Some now awaiting orders to go to Nepal are from Los Angeles.

It takes just a matter of hours for this elite search and rescue team from Los Angeles County to mobilize and head straight to a disaster zone.

They have been sent around the world and pulled survivors from the rubble of several deadly quakes, says L.A. County Fire Chief John Tripp.

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Some Los Angeles County emergency personnel are awaiting orders to travel to Nepal for the search and rescue effort. CBS News

"This team responded to Japan. This team responded to New Zealand," said Tripp. "And when we went to Haiti, with buildings that collapsed, there were people found in void spaces."

Some of those rescues in Haiti took place more than a week after the 2010 quake left much of the country's capital in ruins. Battalion Chief Robert Harris was there.

He said it was "very rewarding because we were there to make a difference and help people and save lives."

It may be hard to imagine survivors, but Harris says he sees it over and over.

"If you were to simply roll out of bed and the whole floor or the roof came down on top of you, it would create a void space right there by your bed, and that area would be a survivable space."

And it may take several days just to get to them, he says, just because of the sheer magnitude of the disaster.

"You get pulled in a lot of different directions when you have potentially thousands of people that need our assistance right now."

When they are deployed, this team is prepared to be entirely self-sufficient for up to a month. They even bring their own doctors with them in case a member of the team is injured during the rescue operation.