By Staff Sgt. Austin L. Thomas, JFHQ-NCR/MDW Public AffairsSeptember 26, 2016
First Responders from Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington County Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services, along with the U.S. Army 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company, conducted urban search and rescue training at Lorton Youth Detention Center, Lorton, Virginia, Sept. 21, 2016.
The Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) Tech Rescue Field Training Exercise is part of Capital Shield 2016, the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington's emergency preparedness exercise. The exercise focuses on brining military and civilian emergency response teams together to exchange ideas and hone their skills.
"In the event of a chemical attack or weapons of mass destruction attack we are your first responders," said Capt. John Higginbotham, Fire station 40, Fairfax County hazardous materials unit Captain. The HAZMAT unit is responsible for monitoring the air quality, checking for chemicals, gas leaks and other hazards that would hinder an operation.
"We assess the situation and call for additional resources. If we do find something we contain the situation and render the area safe so the rescue crews can continue to work," said Higginbotham. "We train side by side on a yearly basis with the military because of the various government agencies in our area."
Multiple realistic scenarios are used to test the coordinated actions of the Department of Defense, federal and local agencies and their ability to protect the public in the event of an actual disaster in the National Capital Region.
"Everything here during this training, is scenario based," said Sgt. 1st Class, Sean M. Sejersen, Platoon Sergeant, 1st Platoon, 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company. "Joint operations is the big thing here, every scenario will be 50/50, Soldiers and their civilian counterpart. We train to build cohesion because in a real-world event we'll all respond together."
During one of the scenarios, 911th Technical Rescue responded to a call of a bridge collapse on a vehicle, with a patient trapped inside. Elements of the 911th, with the support of Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, responded and arrived on the scene with structural specialists to assess the situation. The Tech Rescue Company installed supports to capture the load of the collapsed bridge while the Fairfax County Fire Department used specialized tools to cut the vehicle open so they could secure the patient to a backboard, and safely extract the patient from the rear of the vehicle.
"It is crucial that we build the bond between the military and the local county fire and rescues," said Chief Warrant Officer 3, Ulston R. Springette, technical advisor, 911th Tech Rescue. "In the event of an actual emergency, we will have the chemistry and the working relationships to be able to lean on one another for support, and to have access to assets the other may not have in order to accomplish the mission."