Video: Seattle firefighters train to be ready for quakes, attacks

Story, video and photos by Christopher Boffoli
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

As powerful aftershocks rumbled through central Chile today, closer to home, Seattle firefighters scrambled over a twisted pile of steel reinforced concrete and mangled cars.

Throughout the month of March, SFD is doing structural collapse training at their Joint Training Facility on Myers Way on the southeastern edge of West Seattle, part of their annual rescue training aimed at providing every city firefighter with the necessary skills to deal with what they may someday have to do here in Seattle.

Dana Vander Houwen, Public Information Officer for the Seattle Fire Department, told me today that even though the SFD actually has an excellent specialized technical rescue team, if a catastrophic event were to occur in Seattle they “would not be able to be everywhere.” So by broadening the training for firefighters, the entire department will have essential rescue skills.

The rubble pile being used this month was designed by Seattle firefighters who have training in engineering a rescue environment. It is reasonably realistic but still is generally structurally sound and safe for firefighters to train in. Though Vander Houwen added that part of the training does involve having the firefighters assess for themselves the structural safety of the scene, adding bracing or support where necessary. Adult and child-sized dummies are placed strategically in the rubble:

During the training, firefighters also must make decisions about locating victims, prioritizing patients based on the severity of injuries and the complexity of extraction, and developing strategies to remove the victims in a way that is safe for rescuers. Throughout the process they will use an arsenal of rescue tools, including various saws, the jaws of life, rescue baskets, ropes, etc. Vander Houwen says that each year the training is varied. But the simulated earthquake theme this year seems particularly relevant after powerful earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, as well as this week’s anniversary of Seattle’s Nisqually earthquake. Vander Houwen says this particular training scenario “is a way for firefighters to get hands-on training for an earthquake scenario or terrorist attack.”

8 Replies to "Video: Seattle firefighters train to be ready for quakes, attacks"

  • cjboffoli March 3, 2010 (5:08 pm)

    Here’s a Flickr set with additional images from this story, including a fairly rare picture of a fire engine with the “hood” up:

  • miws March 3, 2010 (8:55 pm)

    Thanks for the story, Christopher and WSB. I think Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto would approve! ;)


    Enjoyed the image set. (I’ll check out the vid later. On Dial-up, so it takes awhile to load.)



  • cjboffoli March 3, 2010 (9:07 pm)

    Mike: Don’t forget about Dixie! Give your Net connection an IV with D5W :-)

  • dionysio March 3, 2010 (9:33 pm)

    Does anyone know if Alki would be at risk for a tsunami?

  • homedk March 3, 2010 (11:40 pm)

    @dionysio – from what I’ve read, Alki doesn’t look to be at high risk for tsunami, but there is a potential risk of soil liquification near the beaches in this area.

    You can find in-depth info about these hazards from, in the Seattle Hazard Identification & Vulnerability Analysis document. The liquification map is on page 52.

    FYI, we’ve linked to this report from the West Seattle Be Prepared website ( You’ll find it on the Additional Reading page of the Resources section. The simulation video of the Seawall & Alaskan Way viaduct collapse is there too, along with some other interesting stuff.

  • miws March 4, 2010 (6:21 am)

    Oh man, Christopher, Dixie was Hawt! :D



  • cjboffoli March 4, 2010 (8:28 am)

    Mike: That gets me thinking… I wonder why nurses don’t wear those little white paper hats like they used to in the 70’s. In fact, people working at McDonalds used to wear little paper hats too. That’s what’s wrong with our modern society: not enough paper hats. They should bring them back. Of course now they’d be made from recyclable material. In the 1970’s they’d cut down a whole tree just to make one hat. ;-)

  • miws March 4, 2010 (12:47 pm)

    Heh, yeah. We should start a Bring Back the Paper Hat! movement! ;)


    Your “cut down a whole tree” comment, reminds of that old Warner Bros, or Disney, or whichever cartoon from the ’50’s-ish where they cut down an entire large tree into a single toothpick! :P



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