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Firefighters train on search and rescue techniques in downtown SLO

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Posted at 6:17 PM, Feb 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-14 22:00:11-05

Members of the San Luis Obispo Fire Department spent Tuesday training on search and rescue techniques in downtown San Luis Obispo.

San Luis Obispo residents walking along Marsh and Chorro streets could find firefighters going in and out of an unoccupied building throughout the afternoon.

"Today, we are building shoring, similar to what we've just seen in Turkey, and so we're practicing and preparing for a building collapse," said San Luis Obispo Fire Department Captain Alec Flatos.

The San Luis Obispo Fire Department's objective was focused on urban search and rescue preparation.

The drill lasted for roughly three hours Tuesday.

"In the event that we have an earthquake within the city and a rescue need inside any building that falls down, we have to have the ability to protect ourselves by shoring up that building and supporting the weight of the building," said San Luis Obispo Fire Department Captain David Renner.

"If the building were to collapse and there was occupants inside that we knew of, or if we didn't know that the building was clear, we could then utilize cribbing and shoring," Flatos explained. "We would build different apparatus to put in place so that we could safely enter."

Firefighters worked through a variety of scenarios in which they would build wooden shores to secure damaged structures caused by an earthquake.

"You have members that are training and honing their skills so we can respond and react in those incidents," Renner said.

"These skills aren't utilized that often, but if they are needed, we need to be ready to go," Flatos added.

The department used an empty building in downtown San Luis Obispo as a way to simulate a real-life scenario.

"The building is unoccupied and is empty at this time," Flatos said. "The property managers have graciously allowed us to train here, which gives us a great opportunity to not just be at our regular training grounds, but to be out in the public, including buildings that are within our own downtown corridor so that we can get real-life, hands-on training in buildings that are in our city."

"Seeing something different is only going to make us more adaptable to an emergency if it does happen," Renner said.

A key part of the training is preparing for a search for potential earthquake victims.

"Within the fire department, we have a wide range of people of different ages," Renner said. "Getting them exposed to these skills younger in their career is going to set them up to just only improve those skills."

The department shut down a portion of Marsh Street along the sidewalk, as well as one lane of traffic, while the training took place.

The last time this specific drill took place was one year ago.

It was planned well ahead of time, prior to the recent earthquake in Turkey.