Fort Worth

North Texas Firefighters Prepare for Tornado Response

Three days of exercises in Fort Worth should benefit mutual aid

Spring is just days away, which means spring storm season won't be far behind. This week fire agencies from across North Texas have been getting prepared in the event a tornado strikes by working on real-world training exercises and practicing the art of different jurisdictions working together.

Phrases like "full structural collapse" and "multiple victims inside" were uttered numerous times on Tuesday morning at Tarrant County College's northwest campus, specifically at the Fire Service Training Center.

It was all an exercise, of course, but a very realistic one in which 70 rescuers from 12 agencies worked under the command of Fort Worth Fire to respond to major tornado damage.

"How often do you get an F4, F5 tornado through your neighborhood? Not very often, hopefully never, but we have to be prepared in case there is one," said Fort Worth Fire Battalion Chief Tim Johns.

"We want to train for game day, and when game day comes I think this training is going to be very beneficial," said Rodney Smith, program coordinator for the training center.

Familiar scenes of flipped cars and debris were recreated at the training center, requiring rescue crews to practice skills like lowering an injured victim down a ladder safely, building supports to keep a building from collapsing on rescuers, cutting through concrete and steel to reach survivors and searching narrow spaces.

They are skills fire crews from Fort Worth, Arlington, Hurst, Haltom City, Plano, Carrollton, Irving, Grapevine and others have put to use this week. The real significance, though, is the command staff working with the different jurisdictions and figuring out who has what resources and where they can be deployed.

"It’s always good to recognize the face and the capabilities," Johns said. "And you don’t want to do that for the first time on an emergency."

Smith said getting North Texas agencies working together now will help the response to a major disaster, as the region doesn't have to rely solely on search-and-rescue resources from the state or federal government that could be hours or days away.

"These are resources right here in the Metroplex and can be there within 30 minutes to an hour," Smith said. "And that first operational period, that first 12 hours, is the most critical."

It's a critical response bolstered by working relationships and practice.

The exercise is set to continue on Wednesday.

NBC 5's Josh Ault contributed to this report.

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