Rescuers encounter ‘tons of hazards’ in search for survivors

Firefighters with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue know the challenges their counterparts face in their heroic efforts to find survivors in the rubble left by the collapse of the 12 story condominium building in Sunrise.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Firefighters with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue know the challenges their counterparts face in their heroic efforts to find survivors in the rubble left by the collapse of the 12 story condominium building in Surfside.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue personnel took News4Jax into a simulated building collapse where they train firefighters to search for people trapped and fighting for their lives. They complete Urban Search and Rescue training so they can help in deadly and dangerous situations like the one being faced in Miami-Dade County on Friday.

This is a typical concrete collapse, with similar dangers.

“There are so many moving parts to that scenario,” JFRD Capt. Eric Prosswimmer said. “They start out with what’s called a surface search they’re looking for people they can quickly identify. There’s tons of hazard you’ve got lose debris sharp objects sticking out -- rebar, splintered wood, many different things. You’ve got to be protected.”

Battalion Chief Robin Gainey has been with JFRD for 33 years and calls this collapse one of the worst kinds. After the initial surface search, first responders will have to use other technology in hopes of finding survivors.

“You put sensors out. Everybody gets quiet for a few minutes and you hear sounds within the rubble pile,” Gainey said.

In addition, heat sensors, search dogs and infrared can all help.

Gainey warns there could be another risk.

“If one part of the building has collapsed ... you have to assume the rest of it has a high risk of collapse,” Gainey said.

JFRD is on stand-by to held to Miami and side-by-side with those already searching the rubble pile.

They believe this was what’s known as a pancake collapse, which happens when falling floors stack on top of one another, leaving little room for survivors. Local firefighters believe the search-and-rescue process could take a month or more.


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