ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Every day first responders enter dangerous situations but some of the most complicated rescue efforts require specialized training.
Minnesota Task Force 1 is an urban search and rescue team made up of 230 members who are firefighters, paramedics, physicians and police officers.
On Thursday afternoon, 15 members (2 physicians and 13 paramedics) of the task force completed their advanced medical training with a disaster exercise at the Saint Paul Fire Training campus.
"All these scenarios today are to simulate challenges that this group might find if they were to respond to a terrorist bombing in an urban area. Trapped victims in various void spaces, at various levels... different challenges they need to work through to get to the trapped victims, to care for the victims and to safely bring them back out," said Pete Fisher, the Minnesota Task Force 1 administrator.
Inside a six-story building, two of the levels had simulated collapses. Inside, first responders found trapped victims (both actors and mannequins) who needed medical care. It required them to travel through tight spaces, like tunnels, to get to the victims.
"We're injecting a lot of noise into the environment so they can't communicate with each other. So it just forces them to think ahead and solve these problems that don't really occur in normal day to day emergency medical services," Fisher said.
Dr. Joseph A. Barbera with Virginia Task Force 1 led the week-long course.
"One of the biggest differences between this and every day EMS and medical care is that... You say, 'I need something,' you hand it right to you. Here, 'I need something' and it's way back down there and somebody's going to have to crawl," Dr. Barbera said.
Minnesota Task Force 1 responds to natural disasters and man-made disasters. They've responded to everything from trench rescues to the Interstate 35W bridge collapse.
"The task force was formed to kind of fill the time gap between the time a community gets overwhelmed by a disaster to the time a FEMA urban search and rescue team can arrive. Could be 24 to 36 hours after the incident just based on the location of the other FEMA teams," Fisher said.
Minnesota Task Force 1 is made up of first responders with Minneapolis Fire Department, Saint Paul Fire Department, Rochester Fire Department, Edina Fire Department and the Dakota County Special Operations Team.
The last time this specialized training was offered in Minnesota was in 2012.