3/22/2006 12:00 AM
COLLEGE STATION – Texas Task Force 1, the state’s elite urban search and rescue team, will respond to mock hurricane incidents at Disaster City during three Operational Readiness Exercises in March and April.
The annual full-scale exercises are part of Texas Task Force 1’s role as one of 28 national urban search and rescue teams under the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Additionally, the Task Force, which is sponsored by the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), serves as Texas’ statewide urban search and rescue team under the direction of the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management.
Texas Task Force 1 is coming off the record 2005 hurricane season in which the team was deployed for five major storms, including Hurricanes Katrina andRita. In the wake of Katrina, the Task Force assisted with more than 13,000 rescues in the downtown New Orleans area, where thousands were stranded after the levees broke and left much of the city underwater.
The Operational Readiness Exercises prepare and maintain the unparalleled skills of Texas Task Force 1 by utilizing Disaster City’s catastrophically destroyed mock infrastructure to create true-to-life training scenarios that replicate a response to an actual disaster.
The Task Force will be divided into three 70-member teams for the Operational Readiness Exercises. The Blue Team exercise will be held from March 24-26, the White Team from April 7-9 and the Red Team exercise will be held April 21-23. The first day of each exercise will involve the team’s deployment to Disaster City. Day two will include full-scale search and rescue operations, while the final day consists of demobilization efforts.
Texas Task Force 1 is comprised of more than 200 emergency responders from more than 60 organizations and departments throughout Texas, with all members capable of deploying within a four-hour window. The team, which includes members ranging from firefighters to medical personnel, is trained to respond to mass casualty incidents generated from both manmade and natural disasters.
The Task Force has responded to major incidents throughout the country, including the Aggie Bonfire Collapse in 1999, Fort Worth tornadoes in 2000, World Trade Center attacks in New York City in 2001, Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, and Hurricane Ivan in 2004, among others.
Texas Task Force 1 maintains a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art equipment cache consisting of more than 12,000 items and weighing in excess of 50,000 pounds. This equipment enables the team to be logistically self-sufficient for the first 72 hours of operation, while being able to function for up to 10 days.
Disaster City, a 52-acre training facility designed to deliver the full array of skills and techniques needed by emergency response professionals, serves as Texas Task Force 1’s home training base. The facility features full-size collapsible structures that replicate community infrastructure, including a strip mall, office building, industrial complex, assembly hall/theater, single family dwelling, train derailment and three rubble piles. Disaster City attracts emergency responders from throughout the world for search and rescue training and exercises.
TEEX’s Emergency Operations Training Center adjacent to Disaster City will also be utilized as an incident command post for each of the exercises. The 14,000-square-foot facility features the latest computerized emergency management technology and is optically linked to Disaster City through a series of strategically placed robotic cameras.
TEEX offers hands-on, customized training, exercises, technical assistance and emergency response services impacting Texas and beyond. TEEX programs include fire, homeland security, law enforcement, public works, safety and health, search and rescue and technology transfer.