VOLK FIELD, Wis. - Natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy, the tornadoes that hit Oklahoma or the wildfires in Colorado can happen at any time. That means National Guard first responders have to be ready at a moment's notice.
More than 2,000 National Guard members from 26 states are here participating in the PATRIOT training exercise to make sure they're ready to respond when a real disaster happens.
The scenario soldiers are training for is a full-scale emergency response to a tornado that hit an apartment complex in the early-morning hours.
Responders have to dig through the rubble to find everyone inside.
"The assumption was that most people were home in their beds, and that they were trapped inside the structure," said Frank Devine of the Wisconsin Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue. "We've removed, around 15 (people), but we're under the impression that there's more in there so our operations have not stopped.
The victims are then transported to the medical tents.
"They would do an assessment on the individual that's injured and determined what their injury is," said Capt. Jeremy Duffy of the Wisconsin Army National Guard CERFP.
But rescuing and treating any victims that may still be trapped inside the apartment complex isn't the only challenge. Like many natural disasters, other problems tend to arise.
"It was simulated near a hospital and that hospital basically had radiation in it," said Duffy. "So we have potentially contaminated people in the rubble."
The responders will see all types of victims -- from minor cuts and scrapes to life-threatening injuries.
If the responders can't treat the victims on the spot, other responders will also have to be ready to fly patients for help.
"It depends on how large the crisis is (and) how large the incident site is," said Saul Hage, this year's director of the PATRIOT Training Exercise. "So if you're talking about a hurricane for instance, you're talking about an entire state. So you might be transporting a patient from one state to another."
Organizers are working to make this training simulation as close to real life as possible.
Duffy said in a real life, emergency natural disaster, response can take anywhere from a few hours to days. That's why the soldiers will be working in cycles for 72 hours straight to experience different challenges throughout the scenario.
"If you do it for eight hours then you don't have the issues of operating at night running (and) low on supplies," said Duffy. "You can operate on a short period of time, for eight hours and get through it, but we want to train just like a real incident would be."
All of the victims participating in the training are volunteers. About 150 people helped out with the training.
This is the 10th year for the PATRIOT Training Exercise.
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