COLLEGE STATION — A group of 48 emergency responders from the London Fire Brigade will graduate from a structural collapse course in College Station on Saturday (May 29), culminating an unparalleled 13-month search and rescue training partnership between the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and the United Kingdom.
The partnership between TEEX’s Texas Task Force 1 and the United Kingdom has resulted in 500 U.K. emergency responders training at Disaster City in College Station, including a local search and rescue crew from Glasgow, Scotland, that responded to the May 11 Stockline Plastics factory explosion and made a live rescue of a victim. To put the feat in perspective, the United States’ 28 national urban search and rescue teams have never made a live rescue.
“With what happened recently in Scotland, this partnership has already paid tremendous dividends for the U.K. emergency responders,” said TEEX’s Bob McKee, who heads Texas Task Force 1, the state’s elite urban search and rescue team. “We feel that this is just the beginning of a long reciprocal relationship between the two countries, with TEEX, Texas Task Force 1 and Disaster City continuing to play a major role.”
A result of the United Kingdom’s New Dimension Programme, the partnership is an integral part of one of the most ambitious fire and rescue programs ever undertaken by the country. After discussions with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and an investigation of other training sites worldwide, United Kingdom officials selected TEEX to develop and provide a modified version of FEMA’s structural collapse course at the agency’s renowned Disaster City.
The training partnership between the United States and the United Kingdom is expected to prove invaluable in the event that both countries are deployed to a worldwide disaster in terms of the standardization of search and rescue procedures and equipment.
Several dignitaries from the United Kingdom are scheduled to participate in the graduation ceremony, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Rudder Theater on the Texas A&M University campus. Included in the group of speakers are Denis O’Driscoll, divisional officer with the London Fire Brigade; John Anthony, assistant commissioner of the London Fire Brigade; Dave Dickson of the U.K.’s Civil Resilience Directorate; and Vice Consul Helen Mann of the British Consulate in Houston; as well as Texas Task Force 1’s McKee and TEEX Director Robert L. Smith.