Emergency responders practice search and rescue efforts in Merrillville

FOX 32 NEWS - Emergency responders from three states are in Merrillville, Indiana for a massive disaster drill, which includes search and rescue experts from Israel.

The exercises are taking place at a location that closely resembles a major building collapse with multiple trapped victims.

The drills began Monday and will continue through Wednesday.

Twenty hours after a tornado flattens a hotel, rescue crews pull a survivor from the rubble. It’s only a simulation, at what was once the Radisson hotel at Star Plaza. The hotel's been demolished in recent weeks. The Indiana National Guard, local responders, and an elite Israeli rescue team are using it to fine tune their disaster response efforts.

“If you look here you can see the crumpled rubble, it's very compact, it's very small pieces, the weight on that on a person isn't conducive to survival. So what we're going to do is look for this area over here, in the atrium, here you can find void spaces. And in the void spaces is where you find people alive,” said Greg Motz of Indiana National Guard.

The drill began Monday with local firemen getting a call about a tornado hitting the hotel. Dozens of mannequins had been buried in the wreckage. Rescuers searched for them all night long.

“One of the main things of this training is that we're here to learn from each other. We bring our skills, we hear from theirs, and we try to uplift all the teams together,” said Mati Goldstein of the Israeli Search and Rescue Team.

Search and rescue experts say that one of the keys to saving lives is to work slowly and deliberately, and that too much speed can cause them to miss important clues and possibly survivors.

“If we work fast, we're going to lose people, people are going to die, we don't want to have that,” Goldstein said.

The mannequins and some occasional live actors are moved to medical tents. From there, helicopters are on hand to transport the wounded to local hospitals.

“It's a great training opportunity. The collaboration between all the different agencies, what we can offer, what we have to give back to the community,” said nurse Laura Flood.

This is the sixth consecutive year for the exercises, called United Front. They alternate between Israel and the U.S. every other year.

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