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Firefighters take search, rescue drill
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The Hinesville Fire Department recently sent five firefighters to take part in a structural collapse exercise in Covington.
The exercise, put on by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency out of Covington, was held July 25-27. The 36-hour intense training operation was designed to test the different teams’ abilities to deal with a simulated building collapse during an extended period of time.
The Covington GEMA unit had been given two apartment buildings that were partially collapsed, which provided an ideal location for the realistic training. The Georgia Search and Rescue division set up tents, shelter and showers for the participates, and made sure each person was well-fed and hydrated throughout the training.
GSAR is broken down into three teams: the Metro-Atlanta Task Force, the Central Task Force and the Coastal Task Force, which the Hinesville Fire Department is a member of.  
Members attending the training from the HFD included engineer Alex Mason, Lt. Gene Long, engineer John Tupper, engineer Moe McDuffie, and Cpt. Kris Johanson. Attending the training and representing the CTF were Tommy Howard, an engineer with Thomas and Hutton Engineering Company out of Savannah. Howard served as a consultant for the drill.
The primary goal of the training exercise was for each team to work for a sustained operational period and effectively transfer information to other teams. A second goal was for the teams to come in contact and work with a K-9 search team in a realistic search operation.
Evaluators for the training were advanced members of search and rescue teams, and came from all over the country to grade and offer tips on how to better function as a member of a search and rescue team.
According to Johanson, who is the training officer for the HFD, said that the Coastal Task Force received a grade of “good” for their performance during the operation.
“The exercise was an excellent opportunity for the Coastal Task Force to get together and operate as a unit; coming from different agencies and areas,” Johanson said. “The team performed at a level that exceeded expectations of GEMA representatives
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