Urban search and rescue teams train in Perry | News
Several members of urban search-and-rescue teams arrived at Robins Air Force Base Monday in preparation for a week long training exercise. They're training for their next call to an international disaster zone.
"The bottom line is to save lives quickly in an international disaster," explains Strategic Communications Team Leader for USAID Carol Han.
This group of men and women are full-time firefighters, paramedics and doctors, but they also double as an urban search and rescue team working together with USAID.
"We do drills all the time, but this is the first time we've done something of this magnitude," says Michael Reilly a safety officer from Fairfax County, Virginia.
The teams flew in from all over the country, and a few are from overseas, to work together at Perry's Guardian Center.
Reilly says the Guardian Center replicates many of the challenges they've seen during a search and rescue.
"There was a building collapse in Christchurch, New Zealand the Guardian Center has recreated that. Different types of disasters in which a parking garage has collapsed and pancaked they've recreated that," explains Reilly.
Even some canines joined the team. "They can sense, smell as well as hear victims in a rubble pile," says Reilly.
The first thing they do when they arrive is make sure they have the proper documentation to get into another country. Chris Schaff, a Battalion Chief from Fairfax County, Virginia explains the customs process where each rescue member gets their passports checked. "Basically making sure that all the stipulations of arriving that are required by that country are met prior to them being released into the disaster field," says Schaff.
Han says on average they respond to 70 disasters in 56 countries every year and says coordination is key when it comes to saving lives. "No two disasters are alike so in giving variety to the training scenario I think will give the teams more opportunities to hone their technique and training, " says Han.
It's just day one of a week long training event aimed at reducing the response time and increasing the number of people saved during an international disaster.
Among those training are members of USAID and the urban search-and-rescue teams from Fairfax County, Virginia and Los Angeles County, California.
While the training is intended to prepare the teams for an international disaster, it also helps them on the home front too.