Major Earthquake at Disaster City Causes Exercise Response from Texas Task Force 1

Texas Task Force 1, the state’s elite urban search and rescue team, will respond to a mock earthquake catastrophe at Disaster City during a full-scale operational readiness exercise March 2-4.

The annual exercise prepares and maintains the unparalleled skills of Texas Task Force 1 by utilizing Disaster City’s catastrophically destroyed mock infrastructure. The unique facility creates true-to-life training scenarios that replicate responses to actual disasters.

This year’s earthquake scenario will include a response by one of the Task Force’s 80-member response teams, which will deploy to its College Station-based headquarters and then be transported to Disaster City.

In the mock earthquake aftermath, the team must maneuver through Disaster City rescuing volunteer “victims” in rubble piles, cars, trains and structurally collapsed buildings. Leaking natural gas lines, electric transmission lines and overflowing sewer system scenarios will all be encountered – just like an actual disaster.

“While we hope an earthquake happening in Texas is a remote possibility, Texas Task Force 1 could respond to such a natural disaster in our role as a state or national US&R team,” said Bob McKee, director of the Task Force and the Texas Engineering Extension Service’s (TEEX) Urban Search and Rescue division. “But the skills and experiences from this exercise will apply to any disaster, whether a terrorist attack or a weather event.”

The entire exercise is being managed out of TEEX’s Emergency Operations Training Center, which is part of the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center. 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.

Both throughout and after the exercises, nationally renowned observer controllers will be on hand to provide critique and after action information to participants.

The operational readiness exercise is part of Texas Task Force 1’s role as one of 28 national urban search and rescue teams under FEMA. Additionally, the Task Force, which is sponsored by TEEX, serves as Texas’ only statewide urban search and rescue team under the direction of the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management.

Texas Task Force 1 is comprised of more than 300 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 canines, 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 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, among others.

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, 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 development.