Philadelphia specialized rescue crews work catastrophic events

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Philly specialized rescue crews work catastrophic events. Dann Cuellar reports during Action News at 11 p.m. on March 17, 2018. (WPVI)

Philadelphia is very fortunate to have an elite group of people at the fire department that you hope you never have to use, but when there's a major catastrophic event, they are the ones you send in.

They are members of Rescue One of the Philadelphia Fire Department.

Chuck McCarthy of Rescue One said, "We are trained in structural collapse."

Along with Squad 47 and Squad 72, they specialize in responding to catastrophic events like the Amtrak train derailment, The Salvation Army thrift store collapse and of course the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

"We actually have a chainsaw that can cut through concrete," McCarthy said.

They have thousands of dollars of equipment like these highly sensitive listening devices.

"You sent them out to strategic areas, they could detect a heartbeat under concrete," said McCarthy.

As they watched the tragic bridge collapse unfold in Florida, they thought about how they would handle such an event.

"Usually our plan goes from A to F, it's not good enough to have 3 plans in place, we gotta have 6 plans cause sometimes your A, B & C plans you walk up and go, 'None of those 3 plans are gonna work," McCarthy said.

For these guys, the training never stops. But how do they process the human toll of those injured or killed?

"It does affect you, but you can't let it affect you to the point where you can't function. That's what we do, we go to work knowing that, and we carry things a lot of times for the rest of our lives," added McCarthy.

Officials say it costs $20,000 to train each member of this specialized team and many would argue that they are worth every penny. For these men, it is a privilege and honor to serve.

McCarthy states, "You have to be flexible, you have to be able to think on your feet and all work with the best guys in the fire department."

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