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COLLEGE STATION – A new search and rescue project under construction at Disaster City? will incorporate lessons learned from Texas Task Force 1 deployments in 2013 to West, TX, and Moore, OK.

The project, which replaces the former “wooden rubble pile,” will still provide search and rescue teams, as well as canine teams, the opportunity to search a pile of broken wood sections, which has been a unique capability for canine training at Disaster City.

“Every prop has to tell a story,” says Jeff Saunders, TX-TF1 Operations Chief. “That’s the underlying method for designing it. Search and rescue personnel should be able to walk up to the site and know that something else was once there. One business that was missing from our ‘city’ was a professional building, such as a doctor’s or dentist’s office, which typically has smaller rooms.”

The new training prop is a collaborative effort between TX-TF1 and the TEEX Emergency Services Training Institute’s Rescue Training Program and Maintenance and Construction staff. It will have the outline of a building with 3- to 4-foot-high wall sections left standing. That gives rescue personnel the opportunity to search for survivors, which may be trapped in the corner of a room, Saunders said.

The prop will still serve as a “wooden rubble pile,” he said, but the destroyed building will be delineated by walls, and the rubble could be moved around or positioned for various training exercises.

Part of the new prop will include a two-story section of the building with its front walls missing. “The two-story section left standing in the new prop was added because of the search we did in West on an apartment building with no front walls and no access to stairs,” Saunders added. “This will be a good exercise for the dogs to determine if they can sniff out people above them as well as below them.”

Another feature of the new prop is an underground storm shelter with a door that is flush with the ground. This was added after TX-TF1 was tasked with searching many storm shelters or “scary holes” in the aftermath of the Moore, OK, tornado, Saunders said.

The new prop is expected to be completed in time for the TX-TF1 operational readiness exercise in April at Disaster City.

About Disaster City?, College Station, Texas

Disaster City is 52 acres of simulated catastrophe, including rubble piles, collapsed buildings, train derailments and much more. It’s the largest and most comprehensive urban search and rescue training facility in the world and is part of the Emergency Preparedness Campus of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX).

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TEEX is the BEST source of forensics education. I can’t wait for my next class!

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