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First responders from across the country in Virginia Beach for building collapse rescue training

This weekend marked the beginning of the 23rd annual Structural Collapse Specialist School.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Dozens of first responders from across the country are in Virginia Beach for a massive structural collapse training exercise hosted by the Virginia Beach Fire Department and Virginia Task Force 2.

Virginia Task Force 2 has responded to disasters like the Surfside condominium collapse and the September 11th Pentagon attack.

Task Force Leader Jon Rigolo say it's through this training that they’ve prepared for the worst.  

“Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Katrina, World Trade Center, Pentagon, Surfside, Haiti," Rigolo said, listing the disasters his team has responded to.

This weekend marked the start of the annual Structural Collapse Specialist School.

It’s a sprawling complex of crawl spaces and staged disaster zones representing different scenarios – things first responders have seen and experienced first-hand.  

“They’ll learn the skillsets needed to break, breach, burn, and remove parts of the building to gain access to trapped folks," Rigolo said.

“Recently our task force operated in Surfside, Florida for that collapse of the condominium there. The skillsets that are used in a response like that is what we’re training the members that are attending this class.”

Rigolo said this course gives urban search and rescue teams a chance to practice their skills – even the K9 teams get a chance. 

Trainers use mannequins that teams will have to extract by maneuvering into narrow spaces, cutting into concrete and steel and moving heavy objects in rubble piles.

“We have simulated collapsed buildings that they’ll work in throughout the week to get a real feel of what it’s like on an incident where they are stabilizing a collapsed building," Rigolo said.

More than 160 people are taking part in the hands-on training. It lasts for 8 days.  

“Our students come from as far as San Francisco, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Delaware," Rigolo said.

It’s grueling work, but Rigolo said its necessary training so first responders are ready and prepared for the worst.