First responders train for a structural collapse in Jackson, MO

Updated: Mar. 21, 2018 at 7:15 PM CDT
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JACKSON, MO (KFVS) - The sounds of blowtorches, concrete saws, jackhammers and drills reverberated from a training facility in Jackson, Missouri on Wednesday, but no construction workers were on site.

Instead, members of Southeast Missouri's Homeland Security Response Team were using the tools to practice extracting people who are trapped under a bridge or building that has collapsed.

The technical rescue team is comprised of 45-first responders from Cape Girardeau Fire Department, Jackson Fire Rescue, Sikeston Department of Public Safety and South Scott County Ambulance.

Robert Greif, a Fire Chief from Jackson, said the HSR Team meets for eight hours once a month to increase their knowledge and sharpen their skills with the equipment they use in a variety of rescue scenarios.

"We train for the worst and hope for the best because it's not a matter of if it happens, but when it happens," Greif said. ""We respond to every technical rescue there is. We do high angle, low angle, confined space, trench rescue, building collapse, search and rescue, extrication, hazmat."

Many people think HSR Teams just respond to natural disasters like earthquakes and tornadoes, but Greif said the pedestrian bridge in Miami, Florida is a prime example of the most common type of emergency they respond to.

"It was from the construction which we have in our area every day, and it's happened in the past," Greif said.

Battalion Chief Brad Dillow from Cape Girardeau's Fire Department deployed with the technical rescue team to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey last summer.

Dillow said he was on the HSR Team in 2006 when a parking garage being built at Southeast Hospital partially collapsed because some columns moved out of place.

"It wasn't being occupied but there were workers there on the scene," Dillow said. "Luckily no one was trapped and had concrete down on top of them, but we did have to go in and do some shoring to make sure it was stabilized so we didn't have a further collapse of the structure."

During the second half of the structural collapse training Wednesday the HRS Team members split up and went through two realistic rescue scenarios.

One group had to breach into a horizontal sewer pipe that was sealed with a concrete wall to rescue a staged victim dummy, while the second group broken into a concrete box from the top down.

"They're going to drill a whole and check below that concrete," Dillow said. "If a person is down there then when we breach that concrete we're going to have to capture that load. We can't just drop that concrete on that person."

Dillow said they keep those training safe but make the scenarios as realistic as possible so that they're more prepared when it actually happens.

"Anytime we're doing stuff like this it's inherently dangerous," Dillow said. "I always tell them it's not only about how physically strong, but you've got to be using your mind and thinking about what is going to happen if I do this."

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