USAR training for disaster responses

FOR the next few days, 75 of Queensland's specialist firefighters and paramedics will work their way through a disaster zone at the Port of Brisbane.

They will hole up in a small tent city and rotate 12-hour shifts operating heavy machinery and exercising their specialist skills throughout the dangerous operation.

Sound like real life? It should.

Members of the State's Urban Search and Rescue team are undergoing a three-day training exercise where a disaster zone has been staged at Fort Lytton.

USAR responds to disasters domestically and overseas and is trained in swift water, confined space, trench, high angle and building collapse rescue.

Caloundra firefighter Conrad Ware joined USAR 12 years ago.

"Locally, we have responded to things as small as a car driving into a building and we have had to make sure the building is safe and secure before conducting a rescue," he said.

"But it can also be as complex as tunnelling through a building to reach people.

"It can be a very delicate operation because of the nature of the situation and the heavy equipment we may need to use around people who need to be rescued."

The USAR team were deployed to the devastating January 2011 floods as well as the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand.

Brisbane firefighter Stephen Lee spent two weeks in New Zealand last year searching for survivors following the earthquake.

The tedious work initially involved search and rescue at an inner-city building but evolved into a recovery operation.

"We were searching for survivors because there was someone pulled out of the rubble about six or eight hours before we arrived but as it turned out there wasn't anymore," he said.

"We were prepared because when we got on a bus after arriving at Christchurch airport one of the local volunteers said it would be pretty nasty.

"When you looked at the building you could see it was a small high-rise that was no longer and you knew it was not going to be joyful."

USAR's expertise in heavy rescue and their specialised equipment gave the New Zealand search effort more than it could provide domestically.

Police and Emergency Services Minister Jack Dempsey said the conditions established at this week's Brisbane-based exercise were similar to what would be experienced at a real event.


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