The 9-11 terrorist attacks, the earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Matthew are a few of many examples of natural and man-made disasters in which FEMA members are deployed.

This year marks the 18th annual Structural Collapse Technician (SCT) course held at the Virginia Task Force 2 (VATF-2) training center here in Virginia Beach, VA. Following a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) curriculum, this course educates and certifies members of FEMA’s Emergency Support Function 9 (ESF9), also known as “Search and Rescue,” on an annual basis. In natural or man-made disaster situations, ESF9 FEMA members are deployed to coordinate with local officials to locate and rescue victims that survived or to maintain maximum sensitivity to the removal of victims that didn’t survive.

The FEMA members in this particular ESF9 training are Firefighters and Specialists from 27 teams across the United States. These men and women are spending 80hrs over 8 days getting certified in additional skill sets that will allow for them to prevent a collapsing structure from falling, dig through rubble to find victims, cut through metal and much more.

VATF-2 has currently deployed 80 FEMA members to Florida in response to Hurricane Matthew. For live updates, visit their Facebook Page.

VATF-2 Facebook Page

The following training centers were setup in various locations with 1 FEMA instructors to every 2 students; a ratio that allows for hands-on personal training.

1.  Heavy Lifting and Moving
2.  Airbag Operations
3.  Shoring Operations
4.  Concrete Breaching and Breaking
5.  Practical Crane Operations
6.  Cutting and Burning Station

While ADS was in attendance for this training, they were paying special attention to heavy lifting and moving, breaking, and breaching and shoring.  Here is a sneak peek into why these trainings are important and what they’re like for the students who attend them.

Heavy Lifting and Moving

“We don’t bring cranes with us,” said Instructor Mark Hundley of Virginia Beach Fire Department – Task Force 2. In this photo, Mark is demonstrating the crane’s capabilities when it comes to lifting something heavy at close range and something heavy from far away.

When FEMA members arrive on the scene they first identify the crane on-site, determine who the crane operator is and assign a FEMA member to communicate with the rigger and on-site rescue personnel. Oftentimes the crane operators or riggers that are called on in a disaster situation don’t know the standards or protocols when removing debris from delicate or dangerous situations and discovering or retrieving victims. It’s imperative the FEMA firefighter be on the scene to instruct rescue personnel on how to respond.

At this FEMA training, firefighters are learning how to be the operator, how to rig correctly, how to lift and move debris and look for things like “hard points” or “lifting eyes”.

Concrete Breaching and Breaking

BreakingStudents in Concrete Breaching and Breaking learn how to “defeat” things like concrete, collapsed structures, timber, masonry and parking decks to name a few.

Mike Kaliher, the lead Concrete Breaching and Breaking Instructor, is also a Firefighter for the Virginia Beach Fire Department. Mike’s role as instructor is to plan, organize and oversee the logistics, equipment and site development of the training site.

Mike explained the difference between a “clean breach” and a “dirty breach,” to ADS officials. In any scenario where there is a concrete barrier between rescue personnel and potential victims it’s important to identify what is behind the concrete barrier. FEMA members do this by drilling a hole, inserting a camera and identifying what is behind it before dropping the barrier. Trainees have fun with this training by doing timed events and making a competition out of it. Walking the training course, you can witness firefighters climbing through concrete tubes and drilling their way through a ground simulation to escape. A sign “Abandon Feelings Here,” reminds students of their mission in these trainings.

Shoring Operations

According to, shoring is the construction of a temporary structure to temporarily support an unsafe structure.

In the event there is a collapsing structure and rescue personnel need to enter the building, they will use a variety of techniques to shore the structure with a wood or metal prop.

An instructor (left) and student (right) learn basic carpentry skills to use wood beams as props in a collapsing building scenario.

Trainees pose in front of a deployable Paratech Raker Shore which is used to support the unstable side of a building.

ADS Is a Proud Supporter of FEMA

As a proud supporter of FEMA initiatives and personnel, ADS was on-site providing Team Wendy EXFIL® Search and Rescue (SAR) helmets to FEMA trainees for test and evaluation during training.


The Team Wendy EXFIL® SAR Helmet meets three of the four FEMA requirements, including: EN12492:2012 for Mountaineering Helmets, EN1385:2012 for Whitewater Helmets, and AR/PD 10-02 Rev A for Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH). This reduces the number of helmets each FEMA personnel are required to own and has additional tactical accessory and night vision mounting capabilities.



Weight: 1.59 lbs. (0.72kg)
Dimensions: 29cm x 25cm x 17cm
Colors: USCG Orange, White, Red, Black, Blue, and Yellow

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