Kansas First Responders Practice Tackling Tornado Destruction

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SALINE COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW) -- With severe weather upon us, emergency responders are making sure they're prepared to handle disasters in Kansas.

More than 230 people are taking part in a two-day, large-scale training exercise at Crisis City, a training facility near Salina operated by the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. The facility’s training areas are designed to give law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical personnel, military and other first responders practical, hands-on training.

"Many of them have the opportunity to train for disasters in their own area but what Crisis City provides is an opportunity for them to come together, work with other agencies and other first responders, state agencies and other emergency personnel in a simulated event where they can work on their skills, pick up best practices from other departments and train together. We all know that when we do have a disaster, we’re all going to respond together. Crisis City provides us an opportunity to train together before we have to go out and respond together in a real world event," said Major General Lee Tafanelli, Kansas Adjutant General.

Recent events have highlighted the importance of emergency response personnel and their preparedness. On Memorial Day, about two dozen homes were affected when a tornado touched down in Marshall County and in Smith County where two homes were damaged. Tuesday night, tornadoes touched down in Ottawa and Nemaha County, leaving many without power and straight line winds left damage in Clark County. Last week, an EF-5 tornado devastated the town of Moore, Oklahoma, killing 24 people and injuring more than 300.

"We all know that when we do have a disaster, we’re all going to respond together. Crisis City provides us an opportunity to train together before we have to go out and respond together in a real world event," General Tafanelli said.

Responders from across the state are practicing how to assess damage, search for victims and perform different kinds of rescues during a simulated, widespread disaster- in this case, a tornado.

"We can practice rescues that take place on a rubble pile or within a structure that’s been compromised. We can go in with a lot of different specialized equipment, do our searches and use whatever means necessary to get people out. We have to learn and rehearse techniques to search every void space for a possible victim, somebody that we can get out in one piece and deliver them back to their families. We’ve seen it, we’ve done it but you have to continue to train on it," said Captain Brent Holman, with Wichita Fire Department's Heavy Rescue Team.

First responders, emergency managers and rescue crews, worked in realistic scenarios to hone their skills and learn from one another.

"We hope trained responders show up. We hope that lives are saved. We hope that our communities are spared. But one thing I can tell you is that hope is not a plan. The planning takes place here. Part of that plan is training responders to work together as one coordinated team... We are very blessed to try to have a synergistic response, meaning that we can get there quickly, we can perform professionally, we can be competent and we can save as many people as possible," said Salina Fire Chief Larry Mullikin.

"It’s when we work together as a team that we accomplish the most and do our best for Kansas when it really counts and that’s when we have those disasters," added General Tafanelli.

Crisis City training venues include a simulated rail disaster, collapsed building, high angle rescue tower, pipeline isolation and repair, active shooter building, K-9 agility course, urban village and the Crisis City operations building, which includes classroom space and an observation deck that gives trainers and evaluators an overview of all the training areas.

Participants in the training event include members of the South Central Incident Management Team, Southwest Incident Management Team, Kansas Task Force 5, Kansas Highway Patrol, state Search and Teams and Community Emergency Response Teams, as well as personnel with the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, Kansas State Fire Marshall’s Office, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Salina Fire Department, University of Kansas Fire & Rescue Training Institute and other local and state agencies.