COLLEGE STATION, Texas – A huge debris pile of crushed vehicles amid a jumble of steel and concrete is sadly reminiscent of last month’s condo collapse in Florida.
What looks very much like a multi-story office building and adjacent parking garage that collapsed are examples of the realistic scenarios spread over 300 acres at Disaster City, built by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, also known as TEEX.
First responders from all 50 states and around the world have come to Disaster City to train and hone their skills since it was completed in 1997, two years after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
“Officials here in Texas realized that if that happened here in Texas, we didn’t really have the capability to respond effectively to that sort of thing,” said Clint Arnett, training manager at the TEEX Emergency Services Training Institute.
Born out of one disaster, Arnett said Disaster City continues to adapt.
“We’ve added props and facilities as needed to try to keep up with what happens in real-world events,” Arnett said.
He said the collapsed parking garage was modeled after a major California freeway that pancaked during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Hanging debris that must be restrained and later removed for first responders to safely work underneath, also serves as a stark reminder.
“At the Oklahoma City Murrah Building collapse, there was a responder that was killed by falling debris,” Arnett said.
Realism is the key, he said.