Residents throughout Santa Barbara County — and California — know that the possibility of a large earthquake is always looming, and on Tuesday in Goleta, 85 firefighters from 10 departments converged to simulate what they would do in a large-scale earthquake to save lives and rescue victims.
Tuesday’s mobilization exercise, or MOBEX, was the simulation of a large earthquake causing building collapses, multiple injuries, and entrapment. Firefighters from Santa Barbara and Ventura counties were involved in the drill, along with 40 volunteers from the Santa Barbara City College Emergency Medical Technician program, who simulated live victims who were rescued and treated.
A host of firefighters moved in and out of the abandoned Devereaux Campus Building in which UCSB permitted the training exercise to take place in and around. Crews from the Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County, Lompoc, Santa Maria, Vandenberg, Montecito, Carpinteria/Summerland, Ventura, Ventura County and Oxnard fire departments were all present.
Watching over all the action was Santa Barbara firefighter Tony Pighetti, who explained that the Urban Search and Rescue Team, or USAR, was part of Tuesday’s action and includes firefighters from both Santa Barbara and Ventura.
Right now the teams are unified, but because they’ve both been able to train more team members, they’ll be splitting up into independent units next summer.
Tuesday’s drill was designed to practice working together as separate units, and to dispatch in real time those agencies involved to practice for a large event.
“That’s the best thing about a drill like this, working together,” Pighetti said. Of the USAR team in general, “we get called to all kinds of stuff.”
Cliff-side, confined space, swift water and ocean rescues are all things they’ve been called out to recently.
On Tuesday, crews were reinforcing a door and an entry way with wooden scaffolding so that the building wouldn’t collapse in the case of an aftershock. “Victims” were buried under steel beams earlier in the day, and the crew was able to use the crane to get to them, along with search dogs who were used to locate them.
“We really want this to be a learning experience,” Pighetti said.
He also thanked UCSB for letting the department use property, as well as Specialty Crane for its use of the crane for the exercise.
“It’s rare to have a building like this. For us, it’s $1 million prop,” he said. “It’s pretty special.”