Oklahoma Task Force Prepared For The Worst

Monday, November 7th 2011, 5:57 pm

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Oklahoma is prepared for the worst, even if it's an earthquake. A specialized search and rescue team is ready with people and equipment in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

The Tulsa Fire Department has more than $2 million worth of rescue equipment ready to respond to an earthquake, and all of this is just half of Oklahoma's Rescue Task Force One. The other half is in Oklahoma City.

"When we roll, we roll with 35 people, we have housing food, shelter, water, we're self sustaining for 2 weeks," said R.B. Ellis, Task Force Leader.

The task force can quickly deploy all of this equipment for search and rescue from collapsed buildings.

They have tools like an inflatable pad that can lift 40 tons. They have cameras that can peer into tiny cracks to look for survivors. They have generators and communication links. And they take everything they might need so they're not another burden in a disaster area.

"We have enough tents and housing for 50 people," Ellis said.

The teams train once a month on a debris pile, with their k-9's sniffing out survivors before the heavy rescue work begins.

Broken up concrete like this is exactly what they would encounter in an earthquake, so even though Oklahoma has never experienced a massive quake, they're ready to respond.

"We practice all the components of it, breaching and breaking big concrete all, lifting big concrete slabs and all the basic rescue skills that go along with that," Ellis said.

The task force last responded to the Joplin tornado, but they've also worked the ice storm, the Picher tornado and flooding in Coffeyville.

That experience, their constant training and separate stash of equipment keeps them ready for the unexpected - like an earthquake.

The people on the task force are regular firefighters from Tulsa and surrounding towns. They have 80 people ready in this area, but need more firefighters to make sure there have plenty of people to go to a big event - and plenty to stay behind on regular duty.