Disaster drill provides essential training for Valley fire departments


by Jill Galus

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Posted on November 8, 2013 at 4:55 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 8 at 5:00 PM

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- You never expect a major catastrophe to happen, but in the event one does, the Peoria and Glendale fire departments are among the agencies trained and ready to rescue you.

Friday was spent practicing extensive skills.

First thing Friday morning, the call came in reporting a “structural collapse.”  With fire sirens echoing all around, this is a rescue mission, but it is unknown how many people are buried underneath the rubble.

Ross Kafer with the Peoria Fire Department explained the approach.

"You have the dogs going in first, locate the victim, mark where they think the victim is,” Kafer said.  “The hazardous material teams come in, eliminate any type of hazards that might affect the rescuers, then the technical rescue teams come in and extract the victim and get him to a hospital where he can be treated."

That is the typical procedure.

Friday, however, was just a drill -- one in which search-and-rescue canines got just as much practice as the human responders.  The dogs’ role is just as critical.

"These dogs can sense a human's presence, 10, 15, 20 feet below the rubble that the person's buried in, that we might not be able to detect,” Kafer explained.

“Right now we haven't had any major catastrophes [in the Phoenix metro area], but you think about the monsoon season and high winds and the haboobs that come through ... there's always the potential for some structure maybe to go down in one of those," Kafer said.

Not to mention disasters nationwide. Our local agencies are also ready to assist if the call comes in.

"Anytime anybody needs anything, we're available," Kafer said. "They can call at a moment's notice, and hopefully we can be deployed within 24 hours."

This multi-agency extensive drill training is conducted at least once a year.