NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s been just over one month since buildings were leveled by an explosion in the East Village.

It’s a fear of something like that happening that many New Yorkers live with every day.

On Friday, CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco joined an elite FDNY unit as it trained for trouble, to keep you safe.

When an illegal gas hookup caused a deadly blast that rocked the East Village, and shook the city there was only one group who would consider the explosion a matter of course, the NYPD’s Rescue Operations team.

They are the first responders on the scene of the city’s catastrophes.

Part of the reason for the success of the elite squad are the intense, simulated drills.

The Fire Department sets up real life scenarios based on past events to give their firefighters and paramedics the best training possible.

Their mission on Friday, was to rescue an injured firefighter, in this case a dummy, who was trapped under the debris of a collapsed and burning building.

“We practice as realistically as we can and as often as we can,” one firefighter explained.

They never know what they’ll be responding to, from construction accidents and smokey subways to window washers dangling 70 stories above the ground.

“This is group you want looking for you if you were trapped,” a team member said.

Friday’s exercise was based on a fire at 2006 Walton Ave. in the Bronx that caused a floor to collapse and trapped several of New York’s bravest.

It’s a tragedy that’s been turned into a valuable teaching tool, 12-year veteran Brian Cooper said.

“We lost two firefighters in the Walton Avenue fire,” he recalled.

They practice maneuvering through smoke and darkness.

Operating in complete darkness in an area you know nothing about and it’s all by feel. It’s not like your home and you can feel a doorknob,” Chief of Rescue Operations Stephen Geraghty said.

Special equipment like thermal imaging cameras get the firefighters through the rubble and navigate the small confined spaces of the city’s pancaked buildings. It’s one of the crew’s specialties.

Every second could be the difference between life or death.

“You very quickly set a list of priorities of what needs to get done, assess the situation, and then you start ticking them off,” rescue paramedic Marco Girao said.

This time, they beat their own clock.


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