Ill. rescue teams train for bridge collapse, disasters
By Lisa P. White
Copyright 2007 Belleville News-Democrat
SAUGET, Ill. -- If a bridge collapsed here, trapping motorists among the twisted wreckage, members of the St. Clair Special Emergency Services team would be dispatched to help with the rescue efforts.
During the weekend, 25 members of the team participated in the first half of a 46-hour structural collapse operations class. Chief Randy Lay said the team trains to respond to an earthquake, tornado, terrorist event or other calamity.
On Sunday, the participants practiced three rescue scenarios -- using sensitive listening equipment to locate victims buried beneath a pile of debris, using airbags to lift a 9,000-pound manhole box and crawling into 30-inch culvert pipe and cutting through reinforced wood blocks to reach the victim.
The 80-member volunteer team, comprised of firefighters from Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties, handles technical rescue and hazardous materials events for the area south of Springfield. They rescue people trapped in confined spaces, collapsed structures, trenches, water and on cliffs.
Most recently, team members rescued a woman who fell through a basement floor in Fairview Heights and responded when a suspicious powder was found last week at the federal building in East St. Louis.
"The calls are not frequent, but when we get them they're usually bad," said Lay, who is also a captain with the Fayetteville Fire Department.
The Mutual Aid Box Alarm System and the Illinois Terrorism Task Force covered the $1,800 per person cost for the class.
Donald Ridenhower is one of the founding members of the team, which began in 1998 as a hazardous materials response team. After Sept. 11, 2001, the mission expanded to include technical rescue and response to terrorist actions.