Florida first responder radio depicts chilling moments as rescuers rushed to Surfside building collapse

Communications between Miami-Dade first responders reveal the level-headed reaction as rescuers raced to the site of a collapsed high-rise apartment building in the coastal Florida community of Surfside. The recordings detailed communications between dispatchers, hazmat units, firefighters, and emergency medical responders who rushed to assess the damage and free as many survivors as possible from the crumbled Champlain Towers South building.

One firefighter reported arriving “at the rubble pile” with an engine and another vehicle. In this photo taken from a video provided by ReliableNewsMedia, a ffirefighterfist bumps a survivor after being pulled from the rubble of the Champlain Towers South Condo after the multistory building partially collapsed in Surfside, Fla., early Thursday. (ReliableNewsMedia via AP)


“We’re gonna need some backboards,” he says. “We’ve got two [victims] over here we’ll need to extricate.” A different responder made a similar request. “You’re gonna have to have all units bring their equipment up and stage it,” one responder said. “We’re also gonna need runners – we’ve got multiple patients we’re bringing off this pile.” Another called for backup quickly after arriving at another side of the scene. “I need two units with backboards to come to the south side… they’ve got two victims on this side,” a member of the Hazmat group said at one point.


This photo was taken from a video provided by ReliableNewsMedia; firefighters rescue a survivor from the rubble of the Champlain Towers South Condo after the multistory building partially collapsed in Surfside, Fla., early Thursday. (ReliableNewsMedia via AP) At another point, responders were ordered to evacuate the 88th Street and Collins Avenue area adjacent to the collapsed building to make room for arriving police. Minutes later, a rescuer said they expected to pull out the most survivors in the same area.

According to the recordings, dozens of units from neighboring counties also aided the response. Many were eager to help when they arrived, asking where they were needed. At least one person died, 99 remained unaccounted for as of Thursday evening, and responders had pulled out at least 37 survivors. Gov. Ron DeSantis warned that officials were “bracing for some bad news” based on the scale of the damage, even as he praised first responders for their bravery.

Fire rescue personnel set up outside the Champlain Towers South Condo after the multistory building partially collapsed Thursday in Surfside, Fla. (David Santiago /Miami Herald via AP). “They were on that scene before we knew whether there would be more collapse,” he said. “We didn’t know whether the building had any structural integrity, and they were shepherding people to safety, and they saved people’s lives. We appreciate all they have done and are continuing to do.”


State and local officials declared emergencies and rescue efforts were underway more than 16 hours after the early morning collapse. During an early evening news conference, investigators said rescuers had heard “banging” sounds from within the rubble that could be signs of life. Portions of the building that remained intact were evacuated and labeled uninhabitable. The 12-story condo building was built in 1981. It was part of a complex with two sister high rises for a42 housing units. More than 130 of them were in Champlain Towers South, which is the one that tumbled down.

According to recent real estate listings, apartments inside ranged from one- to three-bedroom units and cost between $600,000 and $900,000. A South Florida-based home insurance inspector told the Miami Herald she visited the building in February 2020 to inspect impact windows and doors for a client. She said the building was made of reinforced concrete and should not have collapsed the way it did, the Herald reported. Local regulations require oceanfront high rises to be reinspected every 40 years. The building was due for a new one.

Tyson Houlding
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