How do rescuers usually look for survivors? What to know after Florida condo collapse

·3 min read

When a condo building collapsed in Florida early Thursday morning, crews rushed to the town of Surfside to look for people who may have gotten trapped under the debris, the Miami Herald reported.

As of 3 p.m. Thursday, one person has been confirmed dead, 10 people were injured, and as many as 99 people are unaccounted for..

Here’s what we know about search-and-rescue efforts in disasters that are similar to the one unfolding north of Miami Beach.

What happens during rescues?

After a building collapse or a similar incident, search-and-rescue teams may be called in to help look for people.

The first step is often assessing the scene to find out how many people may be trapped, Kris Hurley, a volunteer with the group Search and Rescue Assistance in Disasters, told the BBC in 2017.

One technique rescuers use is to get everyone on the scene to be silent in order to determine if anyone is calling for help, Bob Zoldos of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue unit told ABC News. His team had that strategy in mind while searching for survivors of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

What tools do rescuers use?

When looking for possible survivors, rescuers use devices to help detect breathing, heartbeats and body heat from above the rubble, NBC News reported.

Hand tools — such as pick axes and shovels — and heavy, construction-like equipment may also be used to help sift through or move rubble in search of trapped people, according to the news outlet.

How are rescue dogs trained?

Some rescue teams have dogs, which can be trained to bark when they locate a person.

“Due to their heightened sense of smell, dogs can detect live human scent, even if a survivor is buried deep in rubble,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

The nonprofit National Disaster Search Dog Foundation on its website said benefits of using search dogs go beyond the animals’ abilities to pick up scents. Dogs can also get to places that may be dangerous or difficult for people to reach, according to the group.

“By training on simulated rubble piles where volunteer victims are hiding, the canines and their handlers prepare themselves to find people who would otherwise remain buried,” the foundation said. “A Disaster Search Dog must learn to crawl through tunnels, walk up and down ladders, and walk on wobbly surfaces and over debris and rubble.”

It can take up to two years for a dog to be fully trained. While teaching dogs to respond to disasters, trainers use an approach similar to a game, National Geographic reported.

There are also dogs that are trained to find human remains.

What’s happening in Surfside?

In Florida, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue on its website said it has a team equipped to respond to collapsed buildings and similar situations.

The group can provide emergency medical care, assess damages and “assist in stabilizing damaged structures,” the website said.

The agency’s search-and-rescue task force, which has played a role in emergency responses across the United States and abroad, said it sends its members out with medical gear and “acoustic, fiber optic and video search equipment.” They also provide for food and housing for members.

As part of its response to the Surfside building collapse, the agency reportedly is using audio equipment that can identify faint sounds. K-9s are also being used to search the area around the 12-story complex in Surfside.

“They brought dogs who can sniff for survivors in the rubble,” said Eliana Salzhauer, Surfside commissioner, according to the Herald. “They aren’t turning up very much. No one is celebrating anyone being pulled out.”

But at one point, video captured the moment firefighters brought a boy to safety, according to footage from Reliable News Media.

In all, officials said thirty-five people have been saved, the Herald reported.

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