First responders train on ‘united front’ to handle storm disasters

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

It looks as if a tornado struck three random buildings in Bloomington, but the chaos is by design.

The destruction is part of a massive training exercise underway this week that’s bringing together local, state, national and even some international first responders who specialize in search and rescue.

Three buildings in Bloomington were partially demolished last week in order to simulate the destruction caused by an EF5 tornado.

“We would hate for something like this to happen here,” said Adjutant General R. Martin Umbarger of the Indiana National Guard. “But if it did happen like we illustrated today, I think all of you, as citizens of the state, would expect us to be quick and save lives.”

Throughout the week the Indiana National Guard is teaming with Indiana State Police, Indiana Task Force One and local first responders to practice working together as they would in a real disaster.

“If something like this were to ever happen in Bloomington it would allow us to respond in a United Front,” said Bloomington Fire Chief Roger Kerr.

Roughly 200 people worked to secure and enter the collapsed buildings. Teams then worked to find and remove dummies that were placed inside before the demolition.

“It’s almost like an athletic team,” Umbarger said. “You got to know your individual skills, but you have to opportunity to come together collectively and train together.”

Two of the demolition sites were on the Indiana University campus, including a former frat house and old computer lab that were slated to be destroyed anyway. The other site was the old Post Office in downtown Bloomington.

“I can tell you this is world class, it’s unique,” said Major General Gerald W. Ketchum with the National Guard Bureau. “I think mostly because the sheer number and diversity of participants.”

Those participants include a contingent from the Israel Home Front Command. It’s a partnership that allows both countries to share techniques for search and rescue.

“As I see, you’re in good hands,” said Major General Eyal Eizenberg with Israel Defense Forces. “You have very good commanders and I know they will enter in any situation, any crisis very well.”

With the threat of even more severe weather looming, it’s training nobody is taking for granted.

“It’s a great opportunity to work together in a live training setting that would depict a live incident as we may face this evening,” said Tom Neal, program manager for Indiana Task Force One.

The United Front training will continue through Thursday.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.