CAMP DOUGLAS, Wisc. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- They train for the worst case scenario, but will rescuers know how to react when a real disaster hits? A new state-of-the-art training facility is making sure emergency crews get as close to the real thing as possible.
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It may look like a construction site, but its workers aren't building. They're tearing down and training to save lives.
"This is about as realistic as we can make it and still be safe," Aaron Droessler, a firefighter at the Wisconsin React Center in Camp Douglas, Wisc., told Ivanhoe.
Welcome to the React Center. A jumbled pile of twisted steel and concrete designed to simulate the disaster of a building collapse.
"When they come out of the pile, they feel like they've been in a real collapse, and that's what we're hoping for," Frank Devine, Senior Instructor at the Wisconsin React Center in Camp Douglas, Wisc., told Ivanhoe.
Engineering students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison created the rubble pile. Every beam and block is specifically placed to appear real, but also structurally sound.
"We put them together to look like they're ready to fall down," Devine said.h
During 24-hour training sessions, rescue workers in full gear wiggle through2-foot-tall crevices. They learn where to drill, what to saw and when to know it's time to get out.
"We're gonna go into a compromised building not knowing when it's going to fall again, so our biggest challenge is trying to make it as stable as possible," Devine said.
The pile simulates the aftermath of an earthquake, tornado, hurricane or flood. Mannequins play the role of victims as crews race against the clock to get them out.
"You just put it in your head that it's got to be done and there' s people in there that need you," Droessler said.
The training center is one of only a few in the world, a pile of junk designed by engineers to save lives when seconds count.
"When it does happen, you hope that somebody that is trained and capable of doing the job responds," Devine said.
More than 500 rescue workers and firefighters train at the center year-round. Before they enter the rubble pile, they undergo 80 hours of training and must be able to move in confined spaces and navigate challenging obstacle courses.
The American Society of Civil Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.-USA contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.