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Nebraska Task Force participates in largest search and rescue exercise in US history

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Nebraska Task Force 1 (NE-TF1) is making history as one of eleven emergency response teams participating in the nation's largest civilian based search and rescue exercise ever done in the United States.

Over 1,500 trained emergency responders will be be stationed at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC), Indiana, for the exercise on June 1-7.

The simulation took a year to plan out, and members of the NTF1 will leave in three phases. The ground crew left Lincoln Sunday afternoon, transporting supplies on semi trucks and small fleet vehicles. Additional crew members will be flying out to the simulation on Monday and Tuesday.

Captain Michael Smith of Lincoln Fire and Rescue is one of 74 task force members traveling to Indiana for the training.

“We’ve been deployed to a earthquake, a simulated earthquake in Indiana. We are exercising all the different disciplines,” Smith said. “This is very important for not just us, but for the community and the nation.”

Urban Search and Rescue Crews from Crews from California, Colorado, Nebraska, Ohio Tennessee, Indiana and Illinois will be working with multiple international teams from Canada and Australia to respond to a mock disaster. Team members will use their search and rescue skills to respond to a 6.6 Modified Mercalli (MM) Intensity Scale earthquake in the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone.

The mock disaster will last four days, and NE-TF1 will be responding to the scenario on the ground and in the air. Teams will participate in realistic search and rescue efforts including; base operation set up, wide area searches, helicopter training and building collapse rescues. Officials say a majority of these tasks will be done in a flooded environment throughout the exercise.

FEMA requires search and rescue teams to participate in a simulation once every three years.

Task Force Training Coordinator Lloyd Mueller said the simulation is used as an evaluation tool under FEMA guidelines to assess how each team would respond to an actual emergency and see what could be improved.

“We want them to go out and perform their skills they’ve been taught through the years. We also want to stop and slow it down so that we can critique what they are doing, so when we go out again, we can hopefully do it that much better,”Mueller said.

The training simulation provides crews with feedback from FEMA to help them understand what could be improved in actual emergency situation.

Members of Nebraska Task Force One are expected to return to Lincoln Friday evening.

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