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First-responders learn search-and-rescue skills

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Lawton_First responders from all over southwest Oklahoma have come to Lawton to get lifesaving, hands-on natural disaster training.

It's all part of a three-day 'widespread search' class at the Great Plains Technology Center. Firefighters and police officers from various departments learned the skills to conduct search and rescues more quickly and accurately when disaster strikes.

They knocked on doors and searched buildings, all looking for any living thing that may have survived the natural disaster. Toys and stuffed animals were used to represent people and pets inside. But for a lot of the participants, the scene was all too familiar.

"A lot of these responders that are here in this class responded to Moore. And they saw firsthand what worked really well and some areas that they wish they had more information on," said Susann Brown, the class instructor.

That information would come in handy in case a disaster of that magnitude happened in their backyard. This week's training showed first responders how to best manage the situation at hand.

"The management aspect is teaching them how to take a large area that has been damaged and break it up into smaller areas that they can deal with, and then how to document what they have done and keep track of that information, so that they can make sure that they have searched all the areas they are supposed to."

Instructors also gave them the tools to be able to implement an effective search and rescue mission.

"We are actually teaching search skills that are not only easy for them to learn quickly but able to teach any volunteers that come in to assist, so they can expand the search capability of their departments."

This week's class also  provided an excellent opportunity for Lawton police and firefighters to train together for widespread search and rescue missions. Training Officer Jared Williams says that helps maximize the capabilities of both departments to help people in need during times of disaster.

"When a disaster happens, it is all of us responding, not just fire, not just police, not just EMS," Williams said. "We get to know them and they get to know us. And it just brings that trust relationship between the two of us which makes both of our departments better."

This cross-training opportunity helps to make Lawton a safer and more prepared community, if a natural disaster were to strike.

"Anytime we learn how to manage an incident on a larger scale better, it helps everybody," said Williams.

Williams says that the skills learned this week are not just for times of disaster. They are something first responders can use every day.

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