STIHL Participates in FEMA Structural Collapse School
By Dan Pherson; Product Manager STIHL Inc.
Recently the Virginia Beach Fire Department hosted the 14th annual Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Structural Collapse Technician School and I had the pleasure of representing STIHL as a supporter of the event. More than 100 rescue personnel from across the country spent an entire week learning various skills and techniques associated with urban search and rescue operations in an environment that not only challenged them physically, but mentally as well.
The school, located in Virginia Beach, is also home to Virginia Task Force 2, a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue team that is no stranger to rescue operations. They responded to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti; Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi and Louisiana for Hurricane Katrina; the federal building bombing in Oklahoma City; and the 9/11 attack at the Pentagon. Most recently they provided support of rescue operations in New York for victims of Hurricane Sandy where they searched houses for survivors in Queens and Staten Island.
STIHL has supported the school for many years, and this year I was pleased to present them with brand new STIHL equipment. We presented the school with five TS 500i cut-off machines and a supply of diamond wheels, and two BT 45 drills with core drill kits. The equipment represents some of our latest technology for cutting and drilling concrete and we think will definitely be of use for urban rescue personnel. I had the chance to share information about these products as well as a demonstration of our brand new GS 461 Rock Boss concrete cutter in an interview with Virginia Beach Firefighter TV. You can watch his interview on Virginia Fire Department TV.
The school has helped us a great deal as well. Over the years Virginia Beach Fire Chief Steve Cover and his crew have provided us great feedback on our equipment and how we could make it better. The Virginia Beach firefighters have never been bashful to push our equipment to its limits in their training and rescue missions. As a product manager hearing this kind of feedback directly from our customers is essential to us developing the very best equipment possible. I was particularly interested in hearing what they had to say about how our new equipment performed for the first responders in tough real-world conditions. If it is one thing I know about firefighters they tell it like it is.
One of the drills took rescue personnel through a mock natural disaster - a tornado that had destroyed several buildings and overwhelmed emergency responders. During the drill, crews stabilized a damaged building while they searched “victims”. At a site called the "Fun House," this meant crawling through a 3.5-foot-wide passage while cutting, breaking and drilling their way through slabs of cement and metal, a refrigerator door and old bus parts.
I am happy to say that the feedback I got was very positive. Jamie Brads a certified trainer with Spec Rescue International liked the GS 461 Rock Boss and told me that it runs faster than some of the tools they’ve had out here in the past. He also liked that it was light and maneuverable, critical characteristics when working in tight spaces. I also heard from Josh McEwen, a firefighter from Fairfax City, Va. who told me that his team relies on STIHL equipment.
This entire experience was a special one for me. It was even more meaningful knowing that many of the responders I saw training or instructing were putting their skills and our equipment to use in the devastation that followed Sandy. All of us here at STIHL want to express our appreciation to the men and women who use their skills and knowledge to help those in need. Thanks for all you do.