Created: 03/29/2014 10:51 PM KAALtv.com
By: Hannah Tran
(ABC 6 News) -- Mason City emergency responders got a rare training opportunity from experts all the way from Texas to California.
These experts train over 81 thousand emergency responders from all 50 states in the nation.
They're known as the Texas A&M engineering and extension service.
On Saturday morning, trainees conducted a field search. They carefully scanned the grass and covered as much ground as possible to find an object, which, in this exercise, represented a victim after a disaster.
"It would be nice if we could do this once a year, that's my goal," said Steve O'Neil from Mason City's Emergency Management.
The Mason City Police Department organized a rare opportunity. Experts on major disasters from an emergency response institute in Texas trained first responder students outside and inside.
Texas A&M official Donald Roy helped several teams go through his training course, which involved maneuvering through dark rooms to find missing objects that also represented missing victims.
"It's going to be total darkness in there," said Roy, as he addressed one of the last groups for that session.
When a building collapses, darkness usually swallows every room. Trainees practiced search tactics and techniques in these dark rooms with overturned chairs and scattered debris.
"We have people that need O2, people that are trapped," said Roy.
The dark rooms held sticky notes with names of the hypothetical people that were trapped.
"They have to identify what the needs are for those people, what types of resources they need to come in to assist them on the rescue, and to remove all of the people," said Roy.
But a lot of the focus was outside. Iowa is prone to tornadoes, especially in Mason City.
"Mason City is under more threat than the rest of the state of Iowa for tornadoes," said Milton Vincent, another official from Texas A&M.
With each step along the way in their field exercise. Mason City emergency responders became better prepared for the worst. Hurricanes or tornadoes, the search after any disaster can be very similar in protocol.