If the big one hits, here's how SoCal search-and-rescue teams would look for survivors

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Friday, February 10, 2023
LA search-and-rescue teams train for earthquake response
If a big earthquake hits Southern California, here's how our search-and-rescue teams would comb through the rubble for survivors.

SHERMAN OAKS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- More than 20,000 people have died in the massive earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria last week. Even now survivors are being pulled from the rubble, but as time passes hopes are diminishing for further rescues.

The magnitude 7.8 quake was a reminder to Southern California about how vulnerable we are to major temblors as well.

Los Angeles County has sent a search-and-rescue team to help in Turkey.

And in Sherman Oaks on Thursday, Los Angeles city firefighters and other agencies demonstrated how they would respond if the big one hits here.

Among the tools are search-and-rescue dogs like Bear. During the demonstration, Bear turns a corner and suddenly picks up a scent. When his trainer gives the command, off he sprints and finds the person he's looking for.

"I'm really looking for an alert," said Bear's trainer, Tai Trinh, with the Los Angeles Fire Department. "These K9s, when they find a scent they start barking, scratching and basically go crazy on it."

This is just part of the training for urban search-and-rescue teams. Specialists from several agencies are practicing and learning these lifesaving search skills.

This shows what they'll do if they deploy to an emergency.

"These techniques and tools and equipment are the very same that are being utlitized in Turkey and Syria for that response," said Craig White with LAFD.

It also involves the use of search cameras and listening devices.

One simulation showed a search inside a collapsed parking garage. They listen for sounds that would indicate someone is trapped.

This work after an earthquake can be very dangerous.

"The buildings are unstable in an earthquake environment," said John Cecena with Oxnard Fire.

Officials say this training will make sure rescuers are ready the moment they arrive to a disaster scene. Early response is critical to finding people still alive.

"It's great when all the training that we do actually comes in play and we find somebody," Trinh said.

Thursday marked the 52nd anniversary of the Sylmar Earthquake, which measured a magnitude of 6.6 and killed 58 people. It remains a reminder that Southern California always needs to be ready.