ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — On Nov. 7 and 9, firefighters from across St. Louis County participated in two large-scale disaster exercises to prepare for a worst-case scenario.
This was an earthquake simulation at 8656 Delmar Avenue in Olivette and a parking structure collapse simulation at the Fred Weber Quarry in Maryland Heights.
The simulation was conducted as training for the St. Louis County Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team. This specialized task force deploys to a disaster area to aid in structural collapse rescue. The USAR team provides physical search and rescue operations in damaged or collapsed structures, emergency medical care for entrapped survivors, reconnaissance to assess damage and needs, hazardous materials evaluations, and numerous other specialized rescue tasks.
About 80 members representing 24 fire departments participated across both sites this week.
The training consists of physical search and rescue operations in damaged or collapsed structures and emergency medical care for trapped survivors. Firefighters were tasked with breaching a floor to remove a victim from the lower level and transferring that victim from a neighboring building via a rope suspension system.
They had to maneuver through debris and stabilize unstable areas of the building in order to accomplish a successful rescue.
“The drill is going well, lots of learning going on, lots of experience being gained and lots of good eye-opening for these younger firefighters,” said Mike Digman, Deputy Chief Metro West Fire and USAR Task Force Leader.
A relatively new technology called SARCOP, which uses GPS and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology provides real-time tracking of crews. This technology was recently used in Ft. Meyers, Florida, after Hurricane Ian.
This training is important because “it’s as close to the real thing as we can get,” said Matt Coppin, PIO Metro West Fire Protection District.
“Training like this also builds working relationships across multiple fire agencies,” Coppin said.
“Exercises like this get us on the ground together, get us working together training on some very high-risk stuff we don’t get to do every day,” said Chief Digman.
A third training day will take place on Nov. 18.