SOLON– Imagine a large tornado had passed north of Solon.
That’s what a statewide emergency response team was doing.
Members of the Iowa Task Force-1 Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team spent a good part of two days in late June at the Lakeview OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) Park, formerly known as 600 acres, simulating their reaction to widespread tornado activity.
Headed by director Dan Dall of rural Solon, the team is trained to perform a variety of search and rescue operations in the aftermath of natural or manmade disasters.
On June 26-27, the team was practicing its GPS navigation and technical rope rescue skills, locating and extracting a victim hidden with a ravine on the grounds of the park.
According to Dall, the group members were given coordinates and would attempt to search a specific area using individual GPS units, and then would switch to map and compass in reaction to a mock equipment failure or loss of satellite.
The practice was similar to the type of response the team provided after the Parkersburg tornado.
In 2003, the Sioux City and Cedar Rapids Fire Departments were selected to be the sponsoring agencies for Iowa’s state USAR team, with each agency soliciting volunteers from their department as well as responders from other city, state and local agencies. The team, named Iowa Task Force-1, began to take shape in November of 2003. The team became a deployable asset for statewide emergencies in the summer of 2004.
The team has two divisions, one based in Cedar Rapids and one in Sioux City, and can be deployed by the state at the request of county emergency management departments.