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Aug. 19, 2003

Ann Sullivan

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Phone: 650/604-3039 or 650/604-9000

E-mail: Ann.Sullivan@nasa.gov


RELEASE: 03-62AR

NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: News media representatives are invited to participate in a collapsed-structure simulation on Saturday, Aug. 23, at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., as part of an advanced training exercise for some of the nation's top first-response emergency personnel. Reporters wishing to participate in the training exercise must call 650/604-3039 no later than noon, Friday, Aug. 22, to confirm their participation. They should arrive by 10 a.m. Aug. 23 at Bldg. N-267 in order to don protective gear prior to the start of the exercise. Media representatives must have a valid government-issued picture ID in order to enter NASA Ames Research Center.

TOP NATIONAL DISASTER RESPONDERS TO TRAIN AT NASA AMES

Crawling through a dark tunnel in piles of rubble, wondering whether the next person you find will be alive or dead, and not knowing whether there is another explosive device in the building are typical issues to be faced by some of the nation's top disaster response specialists during a collapsed-structure exercise at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

More than 30 search-and-rescue experts are participating in a 6-day, 70-hour training exercise at NASA Ames the week of Aug. 18. The final exercise -- responding to a simulated collapsed-structure incident involving weapons of mass destruction -- will include more than 100 rescue specialists, heavy equipment operators, hazardous material response specialists, emergency medical technicians and canine search teams.

"We are very proud of our disaster assistance team's accomplishments and service to the public in previous national disasters," said NASA Ames Director G. Scott Hubbard. "We're honored that the collapsed-structure facility at NASA Ames is being used for training emergency first-responders from all over the country."

The NASA Ames Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART) has responded to disasters such as the Loma Prieta and Northridge earthquakes, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Sept. 11, 2001, collapse of the twin towers at New York City’s World Trade Center.

"This will be an opportunity to experience first-hand what rescue specialists think and feel when they work in a collapsed structure," said Robert J. Dolci, director of emergency services at NASA Ames. "Can you imagine the oppressive feeling of crawling through a tiny tunnel carved through twisted concrete and steel? Do you know what it's like to not know if the next space you enter will have enough oxygen left to keep you alive? To wonder if you'll have to recover more bodies before you find your first live victim?" Dealing with these thoughts and feelings, and staying focused on the task at hand, are issues rescue specialists must face when working in a collapsed structure, Dolci added.

In addition to the training exercises, NASA Ames and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., will display a variety of NASA-developed technologies of potential importance to urban search and rescue. "We want to use this opportunity to highlight how important technology development is to the emergency responder, and to better understand technology needs and priorities to make the emergency response task safer and more effective," Dolci said.

Building on knowledge gained from responding to the World Trade Center disaster and in light of the difficulties posed by weapons of mass destruction in the collapsed-structure environment, NASA Ames' DART also plans to use the weeklong exercise to update future collapsed-structure training classes.
The final exercise will take place at NASA Ames' unique collapsed-structure training facility. The site includes a large concrete rubble pile with built-in voids and rooms, a simulated concrete collapsed structure, a 30-foot-long twin-engine aircraft 'crashed' into a portion of the collapsed structure, and large concrete loads for lifting and moving. Other features include a hazardous materials field training facility, high-angle rescue training towers, and confined-space and trench-rescue training props.

Most of the participants are from California's eight urban search-and-rescue teams, who are considered to be some of the best in the country, Dolci said. All the participants previously have taken part in the annual collapsed-structure rescue class at NASA Ames as students or instructors.

NASA Ames, JPL and California Task Force 3, sponsored by the Menlo Park, Calif., Fire Protection District, are sponsoring this year's final scenario.

More information about DART is available at:

http://dart.arc.nasa.gov

Information about California Task Force 3 can be found at:

http://catf3.usar.org/index.html

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