Statewide Search and Rescue Teams Exercise To Save Lives

MERIDIAN – First responders from around Mississippi concluded an intense, four day search and rescue training and exercise operation at the Meridian Public Safety Training Facility today. The operation, called “Hit and Run,” was organized by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, Mississippi Office of Homeland Security and the Statewide Technical Advance Rescue teams.

The exercise focused on five main areas:

  • Statewide response team deployment and communications.
  • High-angle rope rescue.
  • Hazardous materials, confined space rescue and structural collapse.
  • Trench rescue.
  • On-site incident management and logistical support.

“The goal of Mississippi’s search and rescue program is to build a broad-based, integrated statewide search and rescue capability,” said MEMA Executive Director Robert Latham. “This exercise helps us evaluate whether our goals are being met. We have exercised three teams from across Mississippi, and we see nothing but success and lessons learned.”

The scenario was based on the aftermath of multiple tornadoes striking several areas of Mississippi. Rescue teams searched for victims in fictional homes, businesses and a chemical facility.

The ultimate goals of this training were to ensure timely and efficient response of teams to an incident, real-life like search and rescue conditions, the ability to effectively communicate, and have access to resources when requested. The logistics team also handled the large task of providing all-types of resources, housing and providing meals to the STAR teams over this four day operation.

One of the most dangerous rescue operations exercised was a trench rescue which involves shoring up the sides of a collapsed trench and digging out a trapped worker. The high-angle rope rescues were done from four stories high and hazmat air monitoring was conducted to ensure a safe working environment.

“This was a great opportunity for us to come together, bringing the best of the best to one place to train and hone our skills for any disaster that strikes the state,” said Pierce Clark, STAR Team 2 Leader and City of Philadelphia Fire Chief.  “Practicing these type scenarios also helps us identify potential weaknesses so we can make the teams stronger. I also want to applaud our logistics teams which did an unbelievable job of taking care of us.”

There are four regional STAR teams strategically placed throughout Mississippi comprised of more than 500 highly trained first responders. Coordination for deployment of STAR teams during incidents is facilitated by MEMA.

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