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Local task force prepares for natural disasters

Local task force prepares for natural disasters

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Almost 10 years after the tragic events of 9/11, first responders from Utah, who helped at Ground Zero, are reflecting on their role in the days after the tragedy and what they have learned since.

A team of rescuers and doctors from Utah Task Force 1 was deployed after the tragedy on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I've never seen anything before that compared to that, and I hope I never do again," heavy rescue specialist Merrill Bone said. "It was pretty much a hand-to-bucket search through just some of the heaviest debris you've ever seen."

The ordeal is still difficult to recall for the team members. One member said it is beneficial to talk about it only with those that were there at Ground Zero, otherwise, it is too difficult to communicate what was witnessed.

None of the team members who served at Ground Zero are electing to return for the 10-year anniversary. Still, the tragedy is reflected in their training, along with lessons learned from other tragedies such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.

I've never seen anything before that compared to that, and I hope I never do again. It was pretty much a hand-to-bucket search through just some of the heaviest debris you've ever seen.

–Merrill Bone

"Confined space medicine -- we start to treat patients before we remove them from the rubble," observed training manager Nick Glagola at an August training session in Magna.

On that day, crews worked through a rubble pile that had grown over the years. It is a massive wreckage of concrete slabs, jagged metal and car parts. Their objective: locate and treat "dummy" patients caught in the disaster.

Leaders of Utah Task Force 1, which is one of 28 groups of its kind across the country, say preparedness has increased significantly since 9/11. Federal funding is still not ample, but it is significantly larger than what it was. Donations have also gone up.

The group's ready cache of emergency supplies and equipment are located near state Road 201. It's a warehouse full of gear, rations, medicine and anything needed to be self-sufficient during a rescue or recovery operation.

In total, the cache is worth $4.5 million and can be mobilized in four to six hours.

"We're way further along than we were back then," said program manager Bill Brass.

Still, concerns remain. A powerful earthquake in Utah, according to Brass, may overwhelm the system.

"In the case of Utah, if we had a major earthquake -- 7.0 or greater -- quite honestly, I don't know if there are enough resources in the nation to take care of all of the victims that they're going to have," Brass said.

Many of the responders hope against, but expect another significant terror attack.

"I hope we never see anything like that again, but I think if you ask, pretty much everyone in the business is expecting something like that," Bone said.

Utah Task Force 1 and its fellow emergency response groups are constantly on-call. In November, the task force is first-up if something bad happens.


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Andrew Adams


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