Task forces 52 and 54 - comprised primarily of area volunteer fire departments - descended on a parking lot and a building on Security Drive in Avon Sunday morning to respond to the simulated aftermath of a tornado.
Members of fire departments from Avon, Simsbury, Farmington, Canton, East Granby, Windsor and Windsor Locks, among others, responded to situations in two staging areas, the first of which was a parking lot that included a car on fire, an overturned bus with people inside, a car flattened by two concrete slabs with people trapped, and one car on top of another with a gasoline leak, again occupied by multiple victims.
The Avon and Simsbury volunteer fire departments were the first to show, followed in waves by members of the Canton, UConn, East Granby and East Farms fire departments, respectively.
Firefighters used a variety of equipment to put out fires, stabilize teetering cars and extricate victims.
The second scenario involved the mock-partial collapse of a building, resulting in a fire on the roof and victims trapped inside.
Fire departments from Canton, Bradley International Airport, Bloomfield and Windsor were called upon to suppress the fire, with backup provided by East Farms, Avon and East Granby firefighters.
The idea was to make the scenarios as challenging as possible, particularly in light of the EF-3 tornado that devastated downtown Springfield, Mass., over the summer, according to Farmington's East Farms Volunteer Fire Department Chief Russell Nelson said.
“In real life this really could happen,” Nelson said. “We want to be prepared and we really wanted to stress our firefighters and the fire departments that are here, to really push them to the limit to see how well we could do this. It’s not often that you get multiple cars requiring extrication or long-term rescue efforts by the fire department. We want to be ready when the real thing happens.”
The “live” victims were played by cadets and volunteers, many of whom said they also benefitted from the experience.
“It was a learning experience for me to see how they pulled me out, how I was entangled in the seats,” said Farmington’s Dave Barr, who was among those “trapped” inside the overturned bus.
Avon Volunteer Fire Department Chief Michael Trick said that staged events such as this are invaluable.
“You can’t measure the benefits of this,” said Trick, who was particularly pleased with how well all the departments worked together. “The difficulty involved [in this exercise] is something that you see once in a very long period of time.”