The Lakeland Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue Light Technical Rescue Team #421 (USAR LTRT-421) was invited by the State of Florida to participate in the South Florida Exercise (SoFLEx) USAR Drill held in Palm Beach on January 8, 2014, and January 9, 2014. The drill was a joint exercise with various USAR teams from around the state functioning together to perform a search and rescue mission after a natural disaster. The scenario for this exercise was a Category 4 hurricane (Hurricane Brice) with sustained winds of 100mph that made landfall in Palm Beach County. There were a total of eight LTRTs and four USAR Task Force Teams that were invited to attend this exercise. The exercise was divided among two different locations, Palm Beach County State College and the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Training Center.
Upon arrival on day one the USAR LTRT-421 group encountered the scenario in full swing, having been made aware that the Hurricane had made landfall and caused extensive damage trapping several victims. Rescue activities for the Lakeland team on day one included rescuing victims from apartments. The team’s assignments over the two days also included breaching through four sections of concrete to make access into an “apartment” (large conex box) which had a floor collapse, shore the collapse in the “apartment”, and proceed to search into the “parking garage.” Team members also participated by serving as live victims for drills involving highly trained Search and Rescue Dog’s, much like LFD’s very own Cabella and Primos, although they weren't in attendance.
These exercises are very useful in training rescue professionals from around the state in the event that Florida is hit by a significant hurricane, a very real possibility. LFD’s USAR team is one of only a few in the state and would play a crucial role in rescuing the trapped living after a major natural disaster. The exercise was not only a useful learning experience but also provides a good means for networking and interaction among teams, with teams interacting with each other to complete the search and rescue mission. These exercises allow the teams to work together prior to an actual event. The members are able to meet each other, learn the tactics of other teams, and get to the teams equipment cache.
LFD’s Light Technical Rescue Team-421 members that participated were:
- Lt. Matt Brown-Team Leader
- Lt. “Bubba” Geddings-Rescue Specialist
- Lt. Matt Luttermoser-Rescue Specialist
- Mike Wheelis-Logistics Manager
- Luis Ortiz-Rescue Specialist
- Todd Burney-Rescue Specialist
- Jonathan Smith-Rescue Specialist
Newspaper article reporting the training event can be read here.
More photos are available here.
Content contributed by Lt. Matt Brown, USAR Coordinator for LFD.