Emergency responders train for natural disasters in Missouri

COLUMBIA, Mo. - A natural disaster isn't an "if" situation, it's a "when."

Saturday emergency responders from around the state gathered in Columbia to be trained in everything from extrication to evacuation.

The training was set up as a simulated large-scale earthquake.  Crews learned how to search and rescue, remove hazardous materials and control scenarios with challenges in the most efficient ways.

Diann Straatman with the Clayton Fire Department said the missions were similar to what responders would experience in real life.

"A lot of it is fairly real life.  We're up there with radio communication, we have the loud noises, very limited gear and are crawling through tight spaces," she said.

She said the main difference was that these situations are much less intense than they would be in real life.

Straatman and her crew were given a simulated parking garage that collapsed for their mission.

"We had to go in for a child and the driver of the car," she said. "The child was easier to get to, but we really had to work to rescue the driver."

The team was able to rescue both victims, but did have to call for additional resources.

And learning to call for help and work as a team was a huge portion of the day's lesson, according to Boone County Fire Chief Scott Olsen.

"It's not just doing rescue problems, it's doing rescue problems with people from different organizations and getting them used to working with each other for large-scale events," he said.

He believes this teamwork is crucial when so many agencies from different areas come together for a natural disaster.

"One of the things we have great difficulty with in widespread disasters is finding out what's going on -  how much has been damaged, where it's been damaged and what kind of people need help," he said.

Fire teams worked with medical teams who worked with hazmat teams to get the job done.  Even the Missouri National Guard flew over head and provided real-time aerial video to crews below to help show them the best route to take or who needed help.

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