Aiming to provide high-level training about structural collapse search and rescue operations, the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) launched a new US&R Rescue Specialist Certificate program in June. While the program has only been in place for a couple months, so far 38 responders worldwide have completed the required courses to be eligible to receive the certificate.
Major disasters like 9/11 have spurred awareness around the need for improved emergency response when structures have been damaged resulting in collapse, according to the program’s graduates. Explosions, fires and car crashes are all other examples of situations that may cause structural collapse and therefore demand a specialized response.
“Being an emergency responder, the main purpose is to save people; to save lives,” said Troy Osgood, a technical rescue instructor for the Boston Fire Department who completed the certificate program. “If you know there are people trapped in a building and the building’s falling down, and you really can’t do your job, it kind of defeats the purpose of actually having your job.”
Brian Smith, the program’s coordinator, said the certificate is unique in that only a select few are eligible for the program, but it’s helping firefighters and responders gain the skills needed to perform better during urban search and rescue incidents. Responders from Massachusetts, Canada, the UK, Ohio, New Jersey, Iowa and Florida have earned the advanced certificate from TEEX.
Although a college degree isn't required, qualifying to participate in the US&R Rescue Specialist Certificate program is no simple feat. To be eligible, emergency responders are required to complete more than 300 hours of advanced training in structural collapse rescue operations and additional specialized search and rescue training, according to TEEX. Much of the certificate program is based on curriculum and standards developed by the FEMA National US&R Response System.
Program participants must complete six courses and can take some of the lower-level courses through other university programs, which include an 80-hour structural collapse technician course and a 50-hour rope rescue course. However, to complete the certificate, individuals are required to take three upper-level courses -- Advanced Structural Collapse 3, 4 and 5 (all 50 hours each) -- at TEEX. Completing all six courses must be done within seven years from when the first course was completed, according to the TEEX website.