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Specialized unit within Grand Rapids Fire says it's prepared for disasters like Florida condo collapse

Specialized unit within Grand Rapids Fire says it's prepared for disasters like Florida condo collapse
Posted at 8:05 PM, Jul 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-06 15:18:59-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.  — As rescuers in Florida search through rubble left behind following the demolition of the collapsed Florida condo, the Grand Rapids Fire Department is looking for ways in which one of its specialized units could learn from the disaster.

“At any instance that call could come in,” said Lt. Matt Dumond. “It’s good that we’re prepared.”

Dumond is one of 36 firefights who are apart of GRFD’S Technical Rescue Team.

Started in the 1990s, it’s a group in which members go through hundreds of hours of training and learn how to respond to structural collapses and trench, confined space, and high-rope rescues.

“The City of Grand Rapids is a growing city,” said Dumond. “We have a lot of construction, we have a lot of skilled trades people working in the city on a daily basis, so we want to make sure that we’re in a position where we can go help them if they need it.”

According to Dumond, the team responds to a handful of incidents each year where their expertise is needed, like cars crashing into homes.

Some of the unit’s larger responses include a windstorm in 1998 that caused a condo complex in Spring Lake collapse.

Over time, GRFD has invested in four truck which are each full of cameras, saws, and other specialized equipment needed in an accident.

“When the tech team gets there, we are going to start assessing right away for the structural integrity, in the case of a building collapse, and we’re going to start getting an idea for how many victims we have,” said Dumond. “Then we’re going to immediately start trying to make the problem stop.”

Dumond acknowledges what happened in Florida is rare, but says first responders must be ready to go in any instance.

“We are the last chance,” said Dumond. “There’s nobody else in this business. If we have a collapse like that in Grand Rapids, it will be the fire department and it’ll be our tech team that’s going in to find those people. It just reinforces to us, even though it’s not a very frequently used thing, it is absolutely critical.”