Base employees train for catastrophe

Urban Search and Rescue course students

Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) trainees Nolan Miles, Gerry Jomphe, and PO1 Dan Moeller erect a temporary shore to stabilize a simulated collapsing building during training Nov. 28.

On top of a pile of a rubble, amidst the clanging of sledgehammers and the pounding of nails, 25 people train for the worst.
They’re a part of the CFB Esquimalts Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) annual training, and right now they’re stabilizing a “collapsing” building.

“Simulations and scenarios help give the training a more practical edge,” says Glenn Cooper, USAR Team Commander. “When they have a clear goal ahead of them it’s easier to put their training and techniques to the test.”

Standing in for the collapsing building is an old concrete shed at the USAR facility near Work Point. Temporary shoring materials are being erected using wooden beams, steel pegs, nails, nail guns, sledgehammers, and saws.

“This is a very basic skill for USAR. Obviously, it’s not safe trying to get people out of a building about to fall on your head, so you have to make it safer,” says Cooper, who has been with USAR since 1999.

Building stabilization is just one part of the two-week long program. Trainees also learn the basics on breaching, the use of heavy tools to break through wooden, concrete, and even metal walls in the event someone is trapped inside a structure.
“There are myriad skills needed in an USAR situation,” says Cooper. “With this team training we hope to lay the groundwork so they are better prepared when we send them for certification training.”

The training draws personnel from across DND, civilian and military. For PO1 Dan Moeller the training is a way of ensuring his skills are up to snuff should the real thing ever happen.

“We’re taught if anything does actually go down to ensure our family and immediate community is safe before anything else,” says PO1 Moeller, Senior Electrical Technician aboard HMCS Ottawa. “If, unfortunately, anything were to ever happen I want to make sure I have the skills I need to keep people safe.”

With a mechanical mind, PO1 Moeller says the training has been great for expanding on his skills as well as giving him a hands-on chance to use them.

“Working together on the tasks and scenarios has given me a good look at what it’s actually like to use these skills,” he says.
With the training now behind him it’s back to work as usual for PO1 Moeller, but he says the training is something he’s happy he got and won’t soon forget.

“This kind of situation isn’t something we’ve had to deal with yet, but it could really happen any day,” he says. “I know people who don’t even have Earthquake Kits. It’s easy to forget about it but we have to be prepared to protect our families, our communities, and our region.”

-Shawn O’Hara, Staff Writer

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