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San Angelo Fire Department prepared for the worst, if it ever happens

After the Surfside, Fla., condo collapse, the department shares what resources it has available if something happens.

SAN ANGELO, Texas — After the condo collapse in Surfside, Fla., that left nearly 100 people dead, local firefighters reflect on how they are preparing for the worst, but are hoping for the best, within the community.

In today’s world, first responders deal with a plethora of circumstances they sometimes have not prepared for. With eight fire stations spread across San Angelo, San Angelo Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Johnny Fisher said if more help is needed in a certain situation, the department will outsource as far as needed in order to help save lives.

“If a situation like the building collapsing in Florida just so happened to take place here, we would initially do our response and activate the EOC (Emergency Operation Center) to get the emergency manager involved. We would additionally reach out to the surrounding counties for resources and then activate and request resources from the State of Texas if necessary,” Fisher said. 

Although the SAFD does countless training with firefighters, the units here don’t have all of the proper equipment to handle something such as a building collapsing. 

“We have a lot of our individuals trained in technical rescue, rope rescue, high angle rescue.  We don’t really have a lot of training with incidents like this because of the lack of resources to handle situations like that. But that’s why we outsource to other Texas stations in situations like these,” Fisher said. 

Without proper training and adequate instructors demonstrating what to do in these situations, it could result in countless injuries and not being able to save as many lives as possible. 

Some signs and characteristics of a building collapse that may occur under a fire station's jurisdiction include weather, the age of the building, natural disasters, improper alterations, fires, gas explosions, construction mishaps and vehicles driving into buildings. 

In an online article, Michael Daley, a lieutenant and training officer with the Monroe Township, N.J., Fire District No. 3, recommends fire departments perform an "operational capability check" for their jurisdictions. The goal is to identify respective collapse potential. Identifying the types of construction in the area, combined with the age of buildings and their usage will help identify high risk structures for collapse.