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Breaking ground on new urban search and rescue training facilities are, l-r, Bob McKee, Billy Parker, Robert L. Smith and Bill May.

COLLEGE STATION — TEEX broke ground Tuesday (Nov. 29) on three new classroom and office buildings, which will expand its capabilities in urban search and rescue training at the full-scale, mock community known as Disaster City™.

“This occasion marks what can happen when the right attitude and the right group of people get together,” said TEEX Associate Director Bill May. “And I thank Billy Parker for all he’s done in developing our search and rescue training program and making it one that is sought after across the country.”

TEEX has trained more than 300 urban search and rescue specialists from the London Fire Brigade at Disaster City™ in a partnership that was credited with helping them prepare to respond to last July’s terrorist attacks. More than 700 search and rescue specialists from throughout the United Kingdom have trained at Disaster City™ over the past two-and-a-half years. TEEX has also trained urban search and rescue teams worldwide, including Taiwan, Saipan, Iowa and South Carolina.

“One of the dreams I had when Dr. (G. Kemble) Bennett (Vice Chancellor and Dean of Engineering at Texas A&M University) started working toward establishing a statewide urban search and rescue team in 1996 was to build a first-class training facility and classrooms,” said Billy Parker, Urban Search and Rescue program manager and founding member of TEEX-sponsored Texas Task Force 1. “We have the training facility, but we needed the classrooms. Today, that part of my dream is becoming a reality. But it has not been the work of one person.”

Parker said that all of the pieces have fallen into place over the past nine years — the development of the statewide Texas Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team, its inclusion in the FEMA national response system, the construction of Disaster City™ and the development of regional swift water strike teams happened quickly.

“It amazes me how quickly we accomplished the goals we set forth in 1996,” Parker added. “We received a lot of support, and it was the right people at the right time…it was like it was meant to be.”

Construction of the new buildings is expected to be complete in mid-2006. In addition to state-of-the-art classrooms situated right in the midst of Disaster City™, the project includes restroom and shower facilities for students.

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Kathy Fraser

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