NOTE: The pictures published throughout this blog post were taken at the full-scale exercise held at Disaster City® on March 28-29, 2009.
Disasters are unpredictable. Researchers and scientists are in a constant struggle to try to determine when and where the next big earthquake will strike or where a hurricane is going to make landfall.
The inability to predict Mother Nature not only causes difficulty to researchers and scientists, but the professionals who respond to the incidents must be ready for anything at any time.
Every year, the state’s elite search and rescue team – Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1) – immerses itself in a full-scale exercise to practice its skills and the logistics necessary to respond at a moment’s notice.
This year, members of TX-TF1 responded – as it does every year – to Disaster City®, TEEX’s world-famous search and rescue training ground. The fictional scenario to which they responded was a devastating earthquake along the New Madrid Fault System which caused devastation to a town in Tennessee.
You may find yourself wondering why a search and rescue team from Texas is training to respond to an earthquake. Other than the West Coast, the New Madrid Seismic Zone presents the highest earthquake risk in the United States and, because of its geographic location, TX-TF1 would be called to respond if a large earthquake were to happen there. Again … responders must be ready for anything at any time.
But not only do these types of exercises prepare TX-TF1 for an earthquake response, it helps prepare one of the most active search and rescue teams in the country for any response. The skills to rescue a person from a rubble pile are basically the same, no matter how the rubble pile was created.
The point is that all types of scenarios – man-made or naturally occurring – create damage and destruction to property and people. Isn’t it reassuring to know that we have highly-trained people who participate in exercises like the one we recently conducted in Disaster City®?
More than 70 members of TX-TF1 rescued more than 250 volunteer victims from Disaster City® during the exercise. The volunteers were comprised of students at Texas A&M, citizens of the surrounding area and even two people who drove in from Mexico City solely to volunteer for the exercise. The volunteers spent time out of their weekend to be trapped in rubble piles, collapsed buildings and a train derailment all in the name of helping prepare our responders for the next response.
Because we are fortunate to have the training facilities we have and access to the country’s leading response experts, TEEX has helped train thousands of responders from other parts of the country, while actively engaging in responses to catastrophic events.
In fact, TX-TF1 has responded to many significant events in its 11-year history, ranging from the World Trade Center to hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Dolly and Ike, among many others.
Ironically, the very same weekend the exercise was taking place, four members of TX-TF1 were requested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to deploy to the Red River Valley in North Dakota to provide logistical, communication and equipment support to local officials in the area. One more time … responders must be ready for anything at any time.
Because of the training we provide, I’m confident our responders are, indeed, ready.