Arkansas Emergency Task Force Trains in Conway

Both regions — Central and Northwest — of the Arkansas Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team met at a Conway hotel Tuesday to train in building search, structure stabilization and breaching techniques.

The AR-TF1 USAR is composed of the Central and Northwest units. The team, which is qualified and equipped to respond to search and rescue victims trapped within collapsed reinforced concrete and steel structures, was most recently called out to aid in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Houston, Texas. The task force teamed up with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to aid those in hurricane-ravaged Texas.

Conway Fire Department Assistant Chief Bill Keathley, a member of the Central AR-TF1, said the teams train individually each month and that Tuesday’s training was helpful because it brought members of both the Central and Northwest units together.

Tuesday’s training was held at the Economy Inn on Oak Street.

Use of the soon-to-be demolished building was donated by Owner Dilip Patel.

“We’re very thankful for the opportunity to come together to train,” Keathley said. “A big thanks goes out to Mr. Patel for allowing us to use his building.”

Central AR-TF1 is based out of the Pulaski County Office of Emergency Management. The Northwest team is based out of the Washington County Office of Emergency Management. Collectively, the groups include the Conway, Jacksonville, Little Rock, North Little Rock, Fayetteville, Springdale and Rogers fire departments, as well as Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services and members of the Washington County Rescue Team.

WCEM Director John Luther, program coordinator for AR-TF1, said Tuesday’s training painted a bigger picture as far as the scope of who the task force serves.

“This training helps this team come to help anybody in Arkansas,” he said. “‘Northwest’ doesn’t mean we’re only going to help northwest Arkansas. Central is not just going to help central Arkansas. We’re going to help wherever we’re needed in the state.”

He said these types of training help not only improve responders’s skills, but also helps team members learn how to work together better as a unit.

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