South Lake Tahoe Fire Department offering disaster response STAT training | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Lake Tahoe Fire Department offering disaster response STAT training

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@tahoedailytribune.com

South Tahoe Action Team (STAT) volunteers participate in a disaster relief simulation during a past STAT course program.

With thousands of visitors flocking to the Tahoe Basin on a given weekend, properly managing people and traffic flow is always an issue. But what if a wildfire, landslide or other natural disaster closed one or more of the basin's few entry and exit points? What if an earthquake took out power and leveled buildings? Would you know what to do? Even a tsunami isn't out of the realm of possibility. With fault lines that run under the lake, geologists say a quake could create a 10 to 30 foot wave that would flood much of Tahoe's low-lying regions.

In the event of a major incident, local fire and law enforcement agencies would be spread pretty thin. The need for emergency response volunteers would be immediate.

That's the inspiration behind the City of South Lake Tahoe fire department's South Tahoe Action Team (STAT) program, a volunteer-based emergency response unit trained to be first responders.

"There are inadequate resources in every community when it comes to disasters," South Lake Tahoe Fire department chief Jeff Meston said, describing the inspiration for the initiative. "We put together a course that was customized to Tahoe."

The free three-day program will start up again this year with the first session on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Meston said additional workshops will be offered throughout the year. Interested volunteers can apply through the fire department.

"It really teaches you those first-responder essentials," city spokeswoman Tracy Franklin added. "I think it's very important."

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With the Tahoe Basin's distance from major metropolitan regions, emergency response from state and federal providers could be an added challenge in the event of an incident.

"We're really isolated from municipal centers," Meston said, and regarding local fire departments he added, "Our resources will be gone quickly."

The program teaches basic first-responder skills, from emergency triage to techniques for lifting heavy debris around trapped victims.

"It's information that is helpful not only in Lake Tahoe, but any community," said Franklin, who has participated in a previous session. "You don't know when you're going to need it. They're great skills to have."

Speaking in broad terms about the need for training the public, Meston said, "Most people aren't prepared when a disaster occurs. Everybody should be ready to be on their own for 72 hours."

The course also teaches how emergency response protocols are initiated among state and local agencies. As part of the course, participants will be given simulated rescue scenarios and taught how to respond. STAT graduates are asked to be on call in the event of an incident.

As part of public awareness, the city will be holding emergency drills throughout the year to better prepare for incidents. Those who have completed the STAT program are asked to volunteer for those drills.

More information is available through the city's website, http://www.cityofslt.us, or by calling Fire Station #1 at 530-542-6161.

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