Galesburg firefighters recall tornado response in Washington

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Six Galesburg firefighters experienced tornado devastation in Washington, Illinois. As part of the region's Technical Rescue Team, they were called to action on Sunday, November 17, 2013.

"If this had happened in the middle of the night without warning, the destruction and fatalities could have been far higher," said Capt. Michael McDorman, Galesburg Fire Department.

Firefighters spent several hours going house-to-house, combing through wreckage, searching for trapped residents and helping to secure the scene.

"You start searching through a pile," said Capt. Jon Cypert, Galesburg Fire Department. "Next thing you know, what you thought was the basement, you're actually on the street outside."

On Tuesday, November 19, some of the same firefighters were studying in a special class. They analyzed a mock tornado and developed a plan of action. It's training to help deal with real-life disasters.

"The best thing that we can always do is train and prepare," said Cypert. "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst."

That hands-on help was both emotional and educational for Galesburg firefighters. It's disaster outreach during a terrible time.

While their equipment is safely stored for the next call, the Washington tornado is a reminder that disaster can strike at any time.

"Flooding, you don't want to be trapped in your basement," McDorman said. "Tornado, a basement might not be a bad place to be."

From classroom exercises to on-scene emergencies, these Galesburg firefighters are ready to respond.