VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Remember when a Florida condo tower came crumbling down in June 2021.
Ninety-eight people died, and Virginia Task Force 2 helped with the search and rescue efforts.
The reality is that tragedies like these can happen anywhere, at any time.
That’s why first responders everywhere need to be prepared in case disaster strikes.
Virginia Beach firefighters and Task Force 2 have joined forces to train 130 first responders from all over the country in a week-long structural collapse course.
“I am learning so much that I cannot keep up with it sometimes,” said Capt. Jon Rigolo of the Virginia Beach Fire Department. “I have to go back and check all my notes.”
For the past 24 years the Virginia Beach Fire Department has held its Annual Structural Collapse Specialist School that is FEMA approved for Urban Search and Rescue.
“Eight Days, 80 hours, (and) that’s after they did an online component prior to coming here,” Rigolo said.
This year 130 first responders from around the country came here to learn skills and life saving techniques from Virginia Task Force 2.
“To have a bunch of different highly-specialized rescue men who also understand the industry all together on one team teaching all of us,” said firefighter/paramedic Bill Reading, “it’s pretty amazing to see all the technical knowledge that goes into what we do in rescue.”
First responders train on how to stabilize a building that is falling down, gaining access to people that are trapped or to break and breach barriers to gain access to people that are trapped.
“We don’t just sit around the firehouse all day and wait for calls,” Reading said. “We’re constantly training. We’re constantly reading research and learning what the cutting edge of our industry and all the other industries have to offer.”
Learning by doing, with hands on training, teaching them the techniques to use the equipment for initial emergency response to structural collapses.
“It’s like drinking from a fire hose all day long,” Reading said. “It is definitely a lot, but … it is worth it.”
Training first responders to be efficient and to save lives.
The hope is when they leave here they take the life saving techniques they have learned to teach others.