Broken Arrow Students Spend Spring Break Training For Disaster

Monday, March 14th 2011, 5:01 pm
By: News On 6

Craig Day, News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma -- A special program in Oklahoma puts people through intense training so they can respond to disasters like the earthquake in Japan.

A number of college students are giving up their spring break to go through the training this week at Camp Gruber.

Organizers say it's needed because at some point most all of us will either experience a disaster, or need to be able to manage one.

The students are from NSU Broken Arrow and make up the first civilian class of the year for Response International Group.

They're taking part in a search and rescue course.

"Breaching, breaking, lifting, hauling, emergency shoring confined space, and rope training," said Mike Shannon of RIG.

The students will spend their spring break in a realistic, challenging environment similar to what first responders would experience during a disaster, like a tornado or earthquake.

"Failure isn't part of the equation, it's just how we are going to win," Shannon said.

Retired Oklahoma City fire special operations chief Mike Shannon responded to the Murrah bombing, and later created this program.

"More people realize what to do with less, the better off they're going to be," he said.

In nearly 12 years, they've trained four thousand people, both civilians and military. The students are mostly criminal justice majors with an emphasis in Homeland Security.

"If there is a disaster, I'll know what to do," said NSU BA student Wesley Patterson.

Several want to work for FEMA. All believe this training will one day pay off.

"Find your survivors, save lives. and decrease as many casualties as possible," said NSU BA student Erica Osborn.

The students stay on site all week, sleeping in these barracks.

They spend 12 hours a day learning on 33 different sites spread over ten miles at Camp Gruber.

Forget about a classroom, they learn to work in the rubble of a collapsed building where space is often tight and victims are hard to get to.

They teach them how to do it safely, as quickly as possible, and using very little to get those victims out.

"You've got to rely on what you can carry. And be creative problem solving with what you find. That's where the MacGyver thing kind of comes in. The creativity of how to solve the problem," Shannon said.

At the end of the week, they'll be exhausted, but they'll also be more knowledgeable, more confident and better able to provide help during an emergency.

"More people realize what to do with less, the better off they're going to be," Shannon said.

A week's training with Response International Group costs about $1200. It includes lodging and meals and could qualify for college credit.