Ready for disaster

On April 26, 1991, the Andover tornado hit the area, killing 17 people and injuring scores of others. On April 26 of this year, emergency responders gathered to hone their skills during what was the first county-wide urban search and rescue training.
“We all know if there is an event of a tornado, it is not just one county agency that can pull it off,” said Andy Hall of the Butler County Rescue Squad, which hosted the training.
He said they all have to work together.
In big incidents or disasters, multiple agencies will respond, so this training helped them learn how to work together and operate as a team with other agencies.
In the training, held at the Butler County Landfill, a fifth-wheel type RV was rolled over on its side during a tornado, trapping two victims. In addition, a pile rubble was pushed up against the bottom side of the RV, including tree limbs, appliances, lawn mowers and more.
The responders had to triage the area, then began the search and rescue.
Rescuers trained on special techniques and with tools designed to rescue persons trapped under this type of debris.  
“Storm season is here and having the opportunity to work in real debris piles with simulated victims gives our rescuers a real sense of what it may be like when the real thing happens,” said Hall.
Among those agencies participating were Augusta Department of Public Safety; Andover, El Dorado and Leon Fire departments; Butler County Rescue Squad; EMS; and Public Works.
“Many of the responders currently involved in our EMS, Fire and Rescue organizations have not experienced a major disaster yet in their lifetimes. Having this type of training available locally is critical in teaching the skills that will be necessary when disaster strikes,” said Keri Korthals, acting emergency manager for Butler County.
For the training, landfill workers built the special rescue scenario out of debris to challenge the rescuers.
“We appreciate the county making this venue available to us,” said Hall. “Training is something you can never get enough of and the more realistic it is the better prepared we are to help our citizens when disaster strikes.”