Expect 'thunder' during Tucson recovery and rescue exercise

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Tucson is surrounded by thousands of square miles of desolate, inaccessible desert.  People frequently find themselves stranded and need to be rescued.

Starting Tuesday, Operation Angel Thunder kicks off to make sure emergency crews are prepared.

But preparedness doesn't come without practice.

Get ready for the sound of helicopters.  Tuesday, residents will be hearing a lot of it as Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the University of Arizona Medical Center team up for the Angel Thunder Recovery and Rescue Exercise.

"After a disaster happens, that's not the time to start figuring out how we're going integrate with the hospital and local authorities," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Creed Napier.

The exercise will simulate an emergency response after an earthquake.

"Our job is to basically get notified of the disaster, plan and respond as soon as possible and get out there and start treatment on people in the field," said Capt. Napier.

After that crews will begin loading patients onto helicopters, then transport them to the hospital.

"What we're going to be working on is paging it out and communicating, everybody assuming a command position," said UAMC Director of Trauma and Emergency Services Michelle Ziemba.

This year's training is a little different from previous years. It comes nine months after the January 8 mass shooting in Tucson.

"We're actually integrating a little bit with Giffords' staff and they're on board and they're going to be going through a lot of this stuff with us," said Napier.

"Practice makes perfect.  And it's important for us to be prepared for any type of natural disaster or any type of mass casualty incident," said Ziemba.

The more people who are prepared, the less panic and the faster victims can get the immediate help they need.

The Angel Thunder exercise will get underway at 8:00 A.M. Tuesday and wrap up at around 2:00 P.M.