Special Report: Training for Disaster

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – When bad things happen good people help.

When major disasters create catastrophic conditions, the job requires a group of highly skilled men and women.

WSPA News traveled with an Upstate rescue team as they trained to be there for you on what would be the worst day of your life.


To be ready for disaster: you must recreate disaster.

“You could never train too much for a job that can kill you,” said Robert Trusty.

And that requires room for rubble and real-life scenarios that make up this large-scale classroom at the South Carolina State Fire Academy in Columbia.

This is where members of SC Task Force 6, the Upstate’s Urban Search and Rescue Team, gets highly specialized training, like Robert Trusty who also works with the Berea Public Service District.

“You gotta have hands-on and you gotta put in the work and the effort to be successful when people truly need you,” said Trusty.

“Our goal is to make sure that we’ve got the best people on the job,” said task force leader Todd Milam.

Part of Milam’s job is to make this very real.

For three days, two teams rotate in 12 hour shifts tunneling through wreckage and rigging and lifting heavy concrete.

Much of the work happens ahead of time using engineers and experts to stage these scenes.

“There’s about 9,200 man hours behind the scenes before the first person even arrived here today,” said Trusty.

Recovery operations in the aftermath of disasters like the Surfside condo collapse are researched.

Specific details from the Oklahoma City bombing are analyzed.

A piece of concrete now called “The Famous Slab” is a lesson in securing a site before going in.

“If you pick the concrete up in the wrong manner it can cause loads to shift causing secondary collapse and ultimately injure the rescuers but also cause more harm to the victims that are in the car,” said Milam.

The job is both methodical and raw.

The reality for this crew is, many times, the task at hand is very grim.

“As much as we’d love to rescue live people most of the time we’re doing body recovery so this is a very psychological event for these rescuers that work around the clock 10 to 12 days straight doing nothing but bringing closure to these families,” said Milam.

The remarkable thing is people like Robert Trusty fully understand this. To them, it’s a higher calling.

“I can have a positive impact on somebody on their worst day of their life and that means something to me,” said Trusty.

And, that may be something you just can’t teach.

“I’m blessed to be able to do this job,” he said.

It is quite the commitment. The last time their expertise was needed was two years ago when tornadoes hit the Upstate.

SC Task Force 6 was deployed when multiple buildings had collapsed in Seneca.

SC Task Force 6 is made up of members from Greenville City, Parker Fire District, Berea, Simpsonville, South Greenville, and Greenville County EMS.

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