What if it happened here? Local first responders prepare

Equipment, training in place to deal with disaster

BOYERTOWN, Pa. - As the response to the tragic bridge collapse continues in Miami, first responders in Berks County are monitoring the situation and reevaluating their procedures to see how they would handle a similar scenario.

"I was a bit shocked when I saw that on the news," said Brian Sierocinski, assistant chief for special operations at Boyertown Area Fire and Rescue.

They are shocked, saddened and thinking of fellow first responders in Florida, but standing ready if the unthinkable happened here.

"Trench collapse, building collapse, high-angle rescues," said Sierocinski.

"We all do the same training, I don't care where you're at in the country, when it comes to this kind of thing," Lt. Charles Neubauer said.

First responders here don't just have the same training, but the same tools.

For example: "We have what's called para-tech struts," Neubauer explained.

These have the ability to brace, reinforce and lift up.

"They're pneumatic lifting bags. They lift a partial of it," said Neubauer. "The problem you have to be careful of is, when you have a concrete slab on top of each other is, the slab is very large and heavy. I think they estimate the bridge to be 900-and-some tons."

This lifesaving equipment and the numerous, trained volunteers that run it stretch far beyond Boyertown and Berks.

"You never know when or where such an emergency could occur. The good news is, we have a unit that is ready to respond here in Berks County," said county Commissioner Christian Leinbach.

So as the nation's eyes turn to tragedy in Florida, our first responders continue to train and stand at the ready for the unthinkable.

"Seeing all the devastation this afternoon," Sierocinski said, "how would we do this, and what would we be getting?"

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