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West coast emergency responders face Texas' Disaster City

9/18/2006 12:00 AM

Members of the San Francisco Fire Department and other California emergency responders will conduct a full-scale operational readiness exercise (ORE) at the Texas Engineering Extension Service’s internationally recognized Disaster City Sept. 18-20.

While teams from around the world train and exercise at Disaster City annually, this exercise marks the first time an out-of-state urban search and rescue (US&R) team has held an entire ORE at Disaster City. The responders will spend three days working a mock disaster just as they would an actual incident. The disaster scenario will include US&R skill implementation such as initiating and maintaining an incident command post, hazardous material response and decontamination, lifting and moving of concrete, building shoring, and victim rescue.

Although exact details of the exercise are kept strictly confidential from the responders, the ORE is expected to replicate either a full-scale weapons of mass destruction attack or a severe natural disaster, such as an earthquake. The exercise will be similar to the ones conducted by Texas Task force 1 at Disaster city each spring.

Disaster City’s 57 acres provides the most realistic landscape for US&R training in the world. The city includes everything from theaters and strip malls to multi-story building collapses and derailed passenger trains. Volunteer “victims” will assist with the exercise by being placed in rubble pockets and areas that require search and rescue.

“As far as we know, TEEX and Disaster City offer the best and most state-of-the-art training facilities offered today,” said Dave Franklin, operational manager for the San Francisco team. “There is no other site that can offer what TEEX has, and we want to take full advantage of this for our training.”

The city and county of San Francisco under the leadership of Mayor Gavin Newsom, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and OES Director Annemarie Conroy are fully committed to ensuring that the fire department is best prepared with equipment and training to deal with all types of incidents, Franklin said.

TEEX annually trains more than 45,000 emergency responders from throughout the world at Disaster City and the adjacent Brayton Fire Training Field. TEEX also serves as the sponsoring agency of Texas Task Force 1, one of 28 US&R teams in the Federal Emergency Response System.

“Hosting the San Francisco Fire Department and other California emergency responders at TEEX is a tribute to Disaster City and the importance TEEX and the state of Texas has placed on preparing urban search and rescue teams for operational readiness exercises,” said Jim Yeager, TEEX program manager. “These full-scale exercises provide the foundation of training for all other US&R exercises. It’s where the teams see exactly what does and does not work. There is no better place for them to do this than Disaster City.”

TEEX, a member of The Texas A&M University System, offers hands-on, customized training, technical assistance and emergency response services impacting Texas and beyond. Agency programs include fire services, homeland security, public safety and security, public works, safety and health, search and rescue, and economic solutions.

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