The training grounds at the Phoenix Fire Special Operations Center looks like devastation. Dilapidated buildings, flipped-over cars, piles of debris, collapsed structures, the list goes on. It's all part of extensive training for the worst disasters.
“We use our rubble pile for structural collapse training. It has damaged cars and one even has a fuselage from an airplane, but it simulates something similar to an earthquake, in that nature that involves searching for victims in debris," said Cpt. Tom Taylor, an Arizona Task Force 1 rescue specialist.
Arizona Task Force 1 is not an international crew, which means they more than likely won’t be deployed to Mexico, but if an earthquake struck the states, they’d be prepared. In fact, an earthquake in California was their first major assignment.
“It was the earthquake in Northridge in 1994 that was really the first deployment for our task force and what really got us rolling with FEMA," said Taylor.
After that earthquake, Arizona Task Force 1 has been a go-to team for many other disasters.
“[I've] been deployed on terrorist attacks in Oklahoma City and New York but the last many years have been hurricanes like Katrina, Ike, Gustav and recently Harvey and Irma," said Taylor.
It takes pure dedication to join the task force. In fact, it requires hundreds of hours of training. Once on the task force, rescuers go through weekly training drills and annual continued education programs to keep their skills sharp.
It's a program that turns men and women into heroes.