First responders get rescue ready in Glenview
MABAS CEO Jay Reardon (left) talks with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Executive Director of the Cook County Department of Homeland Security Michael Masters about the exercises that the MABAS team went through for urban search and rescu
Updated: December 2, 2012 6:06AM
GLENVIEW — Among the brethren, they’re called rock breakers, knuckle draggers and hazmateers.
When disasters hit – both natural and manmade – they’re first on scene, looking for survivors of hurricanes, tornadoes and train derailments, all requiring training and coordination among emergency units.
“These guys are the top 10 percent of firefighters in their departments. They’re all about energy and testosterone,” said Jim DuPont, a team leader at the Oct. 25 training session for 120 urban disaster first-responders in Cook County.
The training grounds were at Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy in Glenview, where emergency trucks, helicopters and mock disasters were spread out across the outdoor staging area.
DuPont, search and rescue deputy director of Mutual Aid Box Alarm System in Illinois, said trainees learned how to set up disaster base operations that were self-sufficient up to 72 hours with food, water and toilets.
“Training is vital, and these guys are happiest when busy,” DuPont said, a member of the Evanston Fire Department for 30 years.
Participants in the two-day training period were Cook County Department of Homeland Security & Emergency, Northeastern Illinois Public Training Academy, AIR ONE Emergency Response Coalition and Mutual Aid Box Alarm System.
Jay Reardon, chief executive officer for Illinois MABAS, said 240 first responders were members of the state emergency organization.
“Our primary mission is search and rescue through extrication. We have structural engineers, firefighters, HAZMAT people, surgeons, nurses and resupply teams,” said Reardon, who was Northbrook fire chief from 1994 to 2008.
“It takes an enormous effort to coordinate all of these resources.
During training, concreting-cutting saws and overhead police helicopters could be heard for blocks on Patriot Boulevard.
Xamb, a 4-year-old disaster search dog belonging to Scott Peirson, spent the morning with other canines training near 15- feet of concrete rubble and timbers.
“You can send a dog into the aftermath of a tornado, and within 10 minutes they know whether someone is alive or dead,” said Peirson, a captain for the Des Plaines Fire Department.
“They ignore the dead,” he added.
Emergency response officials said events such as Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City and the Kansas grain elevator explosion in 1998 created the need for highly skilled rescue teams.
After the 2001 terrorist attacks, 28 MABAS teams from around the country traveled to New York City and Washington, D.C. to assist victims, Reardon said.
In 2000, MABAS signed an agreement with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency for local firefighters and special rescue teams to be controlled by the governor during state-declared disasters.
“In the Chicago metro area, there’s a large risk possibility for disasters, and lllinois has the largest frequency of railroad crossing in the country. They carry very dangerous products,” said Mike Masters, executive director of the Cook County Department of Homeland Security.
“For the ﬁrst time, we are building vital partnerships to ensure that we are prepared for a major incident.”