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Ref: Florida responders train using National Grid System

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Grid training helps emergency responders find victims

By ANN MARINA, Daily News Correspondent
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Southwest Florida Urban Search and Rescue team members received training last week in the U.S. National Grid System, a navigational reference tool emergency responders hope will prove useful during any natural disasters.

Lt. Frank Giuliano, Master Instructor for Florida, developed and led the course for more than 50 rescue personnel.
“The grid system is going mainstream,” said Giuliano, a firefighter with the Bonita Springs Fire District and a rescue officer with Urban Search and Rescue (USAR). “All 50 states will eventually be using it.
In some emergency scenes, particularly those involving heavy flooding, it’s easier to track down those needing help with the grid system, Giuliano explained.
“You can’t go to an address on Elm Street if there’s been a flood or other disaster and the street just isn’t there anymore,” he said.
After Hurricane Andrew, Giuliano was trying to help a man get back to his house.
“He was traveling the same route he’d used for years, but we couldn’t find his street,” he said. “The neighborhood was so devastated that a lot of his landmarks, like trees and buildings, were gone.”
In the past four years, the Southwest Florida USAR team has responded to seven hurricane emergencies, said Ken Craft, deputy chief of special operations at the Bonita Springs Fire and Rescue District.
“We’ve been to several cities, searching waterways, islands and hundreds of houses, looking for victims,” said Craft, who serves as program manager and task force leader for Southwest Florida USAR. “Luckily, we have yet to find anyone who’s been trapped or killed by a hurricane.”
The U.S. military has always used the national grid system, which is based on universally defined coordinates.
“You can pinpoint any place in the world, down to one meter square,” Giuliano said.
The grid system will do away with confusion that often arises when responders from different areas work together at disaster scenes, said Susan Lindenmuth, spokeswoman for the Estero Fire and Rescue District, and training coordinator for USAR, Florida Task Force 6. “Agencies have been using various navigational systems. Some use GPS units, satellite, or different types of mapping systems. You could have 15 different coordinates for the same location, depending on the system you’re using.”
The grid system course was co-led by Giuliano and Deputy Chief Ed Dwyer, training coordinator for Estero Fire and Rescue District. “They did a good job of explaining it, not only in the classroom, but with hands-on exercises,” Lindenmuth said. “They gave us six coordinates and we had to find the locations, and then gave us locations, and we had to figure out the coordinates.”
In mid-September, USAR members will attend the second and final portion of the grid system training course. After that, all emergency responders at fire departments in the area will begin taking the course, Giuliano said. It will eventually be taught to new recruits at firefighter schools.
The Southwest Florida Urban Search and Rescue team is comprised of 84 personnel including firefighters, EMTs, paramedics and law enforcement officers. Members represent eight emergency response agencies, including Bonita Springs, Estero, Fort Myers Beach, Iona-McGregor, San Carlos Park and South Trail Fire Departments, Lee County Division of Public Safety, and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
These agencies have committed personnel and funds to provide specialized rescue response to incidents that involve confined space, trench, low/high angle rope, swift water and structural collapse rescue situations.
Urban Search and Rescue teams are trained to respond to a whole gamut of disasters, Craft said. “But if we’re directly impacted in the local area, we take care of our own communities first. Once we know our residents are all secure, then we pull up and go together where we need to.”
Scripps Newspaper Group — Online
İ 2007 The E.W. Scripps Co.

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