Firefighters better prepared to save lives with structural collapse training

Firefighters better prepared to save lives with structural collapse training

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, OK (KSWO) -Firefighters in Altus are working to be better prepared for rescue missions, specifically during Oklahoma's natural disasters.

Tuesday's training operation at Altus Air Force Base focused on rescue operations from collapsed structures or crushed vehicles. Dozens of firefighters learned how to physically stabilize their surroundings, so when a building collapses, they're able to go in and rescue those who are trapped.

Firefighters have to bring a lot of equipment with them when going to the scene of an accident or natural disaster. Even though they are physically fit, they still have to rely on the building's shoring systems to help them save the lives of those stuck in a structure.

A group of firefighters were in a scenario of the aftermath of a tornado. They built a shoring system to hold up the roof that was collapsing.

"We're taking these guys through a refresher course on structure collapse and how to basically capture loads, so when a building collapses they're able to go in and pull the victim out, but also stay safe by building these systems," explained Chuck French, OSU structure class leader.

Firefighter Anthony Williams went through structure training for the first time and says he already feels more prepared for the next time he's called out.

"Safety is our big thing around here, so I make sure I look out for the rest of my guys and they look out for me too. So, it's good to have all these safety skills on point," Williams said.

In Oklahoma, natural disasters happen year round, so firefighters will be called to earthquake, tornadoes and ice storm damage.

"Anytime we have a disaster like that come through, these guys are going to be tasked with going in to rescue folks and that's what the public expects, and so these guys need to be able to do this and have this skill set to keep themselves safe and also to make effective rescues," French said.

Among the things they learned in the class Tuesday, they're also learning how to put wood in between concrete to keep it from crashing.

"We've used some of these skills or some of the other skills that we learned through technical rescue, so it's almost like a mixed bag of tricks, so that's when it really pays off," French said.

French says training in the heat is challenging, but it's rewarding when they hear from the community how the firefighters saved someone's life.

"I may never be here when these guys have to do that, but knowing I had a part in that role, that just makes me happy," French said.

French says structural collapse training is just one of the many events they have to help prepare the fire fighters throughout the year.

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