MINNEAPOLIS – Members of Minnesota’s own structural collapse and urban search and rescue team say the rescuers in Mexico will follow strategies used throughout the world as they try to reach victims of this week’s devastating earthquake.
“It’s really many of the same skills, search techniques,” said Deputy Chief J.R. Klepp of the Minneapolis Fire Department who is also a member of Minnesota Task Force 1.
The statewide task force started in 2004 and has responded to disasters throughout the region, including the 35W bridge collapse in 2007 and the explosion at Minnehaha Academy just last month. Klepp said there’s no question rescue teams would approach their work in the same way, whether responding to a disaster in Minneapolis or Mexico.
“When you’re dealing with these massive pile of rubble buildings, it’s the difference between digging into something and delayering. We would be peeling off layer by layer of debris, searching for victims,” he said, adding that the work would be “done by hand.”
Despite the rock-by-rock removal of the debris, the task force quickly points out the benefit of devices and technology that help teams find victims and safely remove them from a collapsed structure.
“Microphones, cameras help us. Last-known locations help us. Sometimes it’s a guess, based on the best intelligence we have,” said Pete Fisher, Administrator of Minnesota Task Force 1.
Fisher displayed a sample of the equipment used by the task force – ranging from GPS devices and microphones, to search cameras and lumber used to support a collapsing structure. And Fisher notes rescuers must also jump into action after pulling survivors out of the rubble.
“There may be respiratory problems. Physical injuries from the force of the collapse. When people are pinned for a long time, and they’re not getting circulation to their extremities, toxins can build up in the bloodstream and that needs to be managed before they can be released from their entrapment,” Fisher said.
Meantime, first responders here say they continue to keep their Mexican counterparts in their thoughts and prayers.
“It has to be the most gut-wrenching feeling that they’ve ever experienced,” Klepp said, adding, “They’re really just beginning. The recovery process is going to be unbelievable for them.”