Seventy thousand people come to Disaster City every year, but they never stay for long. The place is strewn with burnt and broken furniture, crushed cars, and scattered garbage. Ruined children's toys can be seen in particularly ghastly areas, and elsewhere you might catch a glimpse of a severed limb. Mercifully, Disaster City is not a proper city at all, but a massive emergency simulator that stretches across 120 acres. The brainchild of George Bennett, the dean of engineering at the colossal Texas A&M University, Disaster City is intended to train firefighters and rescue workers from around the world and therefore must be as convincing as possible.
Bennett first conceived the idea for the City in 1998, after the Oklahoma City federal building was bombed. The tragedy convinced Bennett of the importance of a training ground where people could learn to navigate rubble and rescue survivors as quickly as possible. Disaster City features mock-ups of collapsed malls, factories, office buildings, parking garages, and even a ship. Each day, volunteers are given realistic make-up "wounds" and head to the City to take part in the training exercises. Mannequins are used in the place of corpses. Visiting firefighters will scour the debris for the concealed volunteers and learn how to operate the equipment necessary to free them.
Humans aren't the only ones that receive training either. Various organizations, including the Department of Engineering at Texas A&M, have used Disaster City to test experimental robots intended to venture into areas too dangerous for rescue workers. Rescue dogs are also brought to the City to sniff out "survivors."
The entire site cost $7.7 million and it provides invaluable experience to people from all over the globe, so that when tragedy strikes, they will be well prepared to help save lives. Compare this cost to $237 million budget of Avatar and contemplate the bizarre priorities of America.
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