SALINE COUNTY – The elite firefighters from Great Bend, Newton, Hutchinson, Sedgwick County and Winfield met in McPherson Wednesday morning. From there, the team made its way to the tornado-ravaged community.
Thankfully, there wasn’t really a twister. It was all part of an elaborate two-day training exercise at the Kansas Adjutant General’s Office Division of Emergency Management Crisis City facility southwest of Salina.
The Great Bend Fire Department firefighters were among more than 230 emergency personnel from across Kansas taking part. Involved were first responders, emergency managers and other members of the public safety professions.
Great Bend attended as part of the Taskforce 5 out of Homeland Security’s Southcentral Kansas Region. Great Bend Fire Chief Mike Napolitano said he had five guys attend Wednesday and five more on Thursday.
The taskforce is made up of technicians specializing in collapsed buildings and search/rescue, said Luke McCormick of the GBFD. He was one of the Wednesday attendees.
Once divided into divisions, the Great Bend team members got to work. “We simulated the search of a residential area that was reduced to rubble.”
After that, they helped with a collapsed school and extract trapped motorists pinned by a overturned tanker truck. “It was a busy day.”
McCormick said the Great Bend department has the personnel with all the needed skills and all the necessary equipment to pull off this type of operation. That is good to know, should the worst ever happen.
In the event of a disaster, he said department that makes up the taskforce would contribute manpower and equipment, and deploy were ever necessary. This would include technicians, medics, K-9 units and a command structure.
He said any department in the state that needs help need only make one call and the team will respond. This mutual aid agreement works for Great Bend as well should this community need assistance.
The taskforce extended an offer to help in Moore, Okla., but officials there said they had enough resources locally.
Crisis City is a multidiscipline training facility eight miles southwest of Salina. The training areas are designed to give law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical personnel, military and other first responders practical, hands-on training tailored to their professional needs.
Participants include members of the South Central Incident Management Team, Southwest Incident Management Team, Kansas Task Force 5, Kansas Highway Patrol, state Search and Teams and Community Emergency Response Teams. Personnel from the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, Kansas State Fire Marshall’s Office, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Salina Fire Department, University of Kansas Fire and Rescue Training Institute and other local and state agencies will operate the simulation cell that provides exercise injects, conduct exercise evaluations, serve as safety officers and fulfill other support functions.
Opened in October 2009, Crisis City training venues include a simulated rail disaster, collapsed building, high angle rescue tower, pipeline isolation and repair, active shooter building, K-9 agility course, urban village and the Crisis City operations building, which includes classroom space and an observation deck that gives trainers and evaluators an overview of all the training areas.
Great Bend personnel have attended training at the facility in the past.