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L.A. Fire simulates real-life quake scenarios

April 19, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Firefighters set up a "Disaster Village" Monday to simulate what could happen when a major earthquake hits the Southland.The drill was designed to replicate real-life scenarios like collapsed freeways or buildings with people trapped under the rubble.The simulation took place at Fire Station 88 in Sherman Oaks and ran for over three hours.

It was only a drill, but L.A. firefighters responded as if a magnitude 8.0 earthquake had just struck Southern California.

When they arrived on scene, first responders began helping injured people and began searching for victims buried under wreckage. Search dogs sniffed through the concrete and barked to indicate a trapped person.

Meantime, paramedics set up a triage area to treat the wounded. Then, the urban search and rescue team rolled in.

"Our natural reaction as firefighters is that everybody wants to get dirty and wants to do something. So, the hardest thing for us to do is to kind of hang back and work as a team," said Richard Hernandez of L.A. Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue Team.

After locating the victims, they worked as quickly and safely as possible, using jack hammers, circular saws and sledge hammers to break through the concrete to rescue the trapped, injured individuals.

In a specific scenario, the rescue team saw an arm sandwiched between two huge slabs of concrete. In order to get to the trapped victim, they used an inflatable bag that can lift up to 22 tons to get the person out to safety.

The fire department wants to prepare for the 'big one' in light of all the other earthquakes in recent months around the world that have caused major damage and casualties. The U.S. Geological Survey says that seismic activity doesn't show a pattern and that there is no real way to predict an earthquake.

"You can't stop the earthquakes but you can stop the damage by taking personal responsibility for it," said Lucy Jones of USGS.

An earthquake nearing magnitude 8.0 hasn't struck Southern California in many decades. The last time there was a magnitude 7.9 quake was in 1857, when the city was still a sparsely populated outpost.

Experts say there will be another big earthquake relatively soon. They say the fact that a magnitude 8.0 quake hasn't occurred in so long only shows how overdue it is.

Those in charge of monitoring the team work by the city's 106 neighborhood fire stations in their own "earthquake mode" Monday said it was a job well done.

"It's a coordinated effort so they can work in the same area, not impact one another, not expose anyone to any hazards, so it's very important that we practice this and work together real well," said L.A. City Fire Capt. Ron Klamecki.

April is 'Earthquake Preparedness' month, and the fire department said that the best thing that you can do to get ready is to have three days worth of food and water on hand as well as clothing and blankets.


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