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Where Rescue Workers Train for Disaster

No one knows when disaster will strike. That’s one of the most jarring parts of any emergency: the sudden unexpectedness of it. Unfortunately, hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters manufactured by mankind or Mother Nature hurdle people into various states of distress every year.

When a tragedy happens, the people in the midst of it hope for rescue. They look to firefighters, rescue workers and other trained professionals for guidance and survival. These people are tasked with managing the situation, getting it under control and helping as many people as possible. Regardless of how off-guard these people were caught, they need to be ready.

Knowing just what to do and when is an important skill that rescue workers need to develop, and practice makes perfect. But how do you hone these skills if they are only used in the face of extreme danger?

Preparing for the Worst

Disaster City was the answer to this necessary training challenge. Popular Science reported that Disaster City is the invention of G. Kemble Bennett, who at the time was the dean of engineering at Texas A&M University. After the bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995, it was clear to Bennet​t that tragedies needed to be prepared for. But there wasn’t a proper training ground that truly felt like the real thing. CNN reported it was this bombing, as well as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, that inspired him to develop the set.

“We’d never encountered or thought through about acts of terrorism on large commercial buildings,” Bennett said, according to CNN. “Emergency responders learn by doing. We wanted a training facility to train responders in search-and-rescue from around the state.”

This is important. Rescue workers need to be prepared for the worst, but that will only happen if everything looks like it is the worst. Disaster City was designed based on the aftermath of real-life disasters, like earthquakes and bombings. Rubble, smashed cars and collapsed buildings can be seen throughout the training area.

But as anyone who has survived or helped out during a tragedy knows, it’s not just the smashed cement and steel that make a disaster zone frightening. It’s also the people, who are burnt and bleeding and buried. That’s why Disaster City employs makeup artists to make everything seem real. The artists apply Halloween blood, torn clothing and even pieces of chicken and turkey bones and rebar to volunteers.

A Training Attraction

The accuracy of the set has brought people from all over the globe to learn techniques and strategies for coping with unexpected and horrendous situations. CNN explained that many teams meet up to train here and experienced a noticeable difference when the time came to address a real-life situation.

One person who has trained at Disaster City was a member of the London Fire Brigade in 2005. Brian Freeman visited the simulation area in 2003 and 2004. He said he applied the things he learned during these exercises when central London was bombed by four terrorists.

“We would not have had the expertise if not for Disaster City,” Freeman said, according to CNN.

Disaster City has helped rescue workers improve their skills and learn new ones that could be applied in high-intensity situations. This training ground and those that are modeled after it save lives. But it wouldn’t be this effective if it hadn’t been well-thought out. From the damage and dust to the makeup and volunteer “victims,” it looks and feels incredibly real.

Building the set wasn’t easy. Popular Science reported the whole thing cost roughly $100 million. The equipment that went into creating it isn’t the typical equipment a construction project usually requires – such as crashed school buses and smashed storm shelters. Even today, after Disaster City has been built and is internationally regarded as a highly effective training experience, there remain storage needs. Makeup, props, equipment and more are all essential.

Training simulation areas like Disaster City can benefit from the storage capacities of Mobile Mini’s steel storage containers. They are strong and sturdy enough to protect their contents during inclement weather or against vandals. They come in multiple sizes, so it’s easy to store large pieces of equipment or boxes of Meals Ready to Eat.