There are many reasons why some EMS workers undergo extensive training for building collapses.By Amy Wadas

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — What’s the likelihood of something like the Miami condo collapse happening in the Pittsburgh area?


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Experts said it’s rare, but situations can happen anywhere, and western Pennsylvania is more vulnerable to it because there are a lot of older buildings in the region.

“Every building is different,” said P.J. Mudar.

Mudar is a structural collapse specialist with Strike Team 1, the arm of the Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Team that serves western Pennsylvania.

“There’s a lot of factors that go into how long a building lasts, how well it’s maintained, and how well it’s constructed,” said Mudar.

Mudar said Pittsburgh and surrounding communities do a good job when it comes to maintenance and code enforcement.

“We are fortunate that our local communities take care of their buildings, and I think we can rest easy at night knowing that our construction and design folks are doing a good job. Local code officials are doing their job and first responders train and rescue,” said Mudar.

Strike Team 1 also consists of local first responders like Brian Kokkila, who is the task force leader for the Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Team Strike 1.

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“When looking at older building stock in western Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania in general, the potential exists. Whether it’s degradation of buildings, impacts from weather,” said Kokkila.

That’s one of the many reasons why some EMS workers undergo extensive training for building collapses.

Surfside Condo Collapse

(Credit: WFOR-TV)

Greg Porter with Ross/West View EMS and also a member of Strike Team 1 said training came in handy when a building in Washington County partially collapsed in 2017, trapping a woman for nearly 10 hours.

However, he said seeing buildings collapse isn’t particularly common in the U.S.

“If you look at building codes in the U.S., we are far better off than many countries are,” said Porter.

While Porter agrees we are far better off than other countries, Kokkila said funding is becoming more of a challenge for Strike Team 1. He said the amount of money coming in from the state has been dropping every year.

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The organization is now looking into other types of funding to support the team with things like training, equipment and maintenance.