Technical Rescue

trench 2003
In May 2003 a trench fatality occurred within the Village after construction crews failed to place the proper trench box, resulting in a collapse of a trench while excavating a water system. Unfortunately this resulted in a fatality of a worker that was inside the trench. We rapidly learned that we lacked the skills, equipment, or partnerships to mitigate the problem of this type and possibly could have had a different outcome.

What is meant by the term Technical Rescue ?

Technical Rescue is a series of specialized skills or set of disciplines that first responders train and are equipped to respond to incidents outside the typical assumed activities of "Fire & EMS" responses.1670
These skill sets are governed by a set of procedures and training requirements outlined by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) primarily NFPA 1670 - (Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents). Generally speaking there are two levels of training ;
The Operations Level & Technician Level. The Operations level teaches a basic knowledge and operating ability where the Technician level educates members on more advanced techniques and equipment.

It is the goal to train all Pleasant Prairie Fire & Rescue Personnel to at minimum the Operations Level in all disciplines. This effort is designed to educate staff to ensure they are making safe decisions during the initial timeline of an incident. This is to prevent further tragedy, additional victims and offer the injured the best chance of survival. 
The Technical Rescue categories are generally divided into the following disciplines:
  • Hi/Low angle Rope Rescue & Access
  • Confined Space
  • Trench
  • Structural Collapse
Rope rescue & access is often misunderstood as many people believe it is about repelling off a cliff. It is a discipline of understanding and learning numerous knots, methods of mechanical advantage, utilizing ropes, webbing, and pulleys to safely move equipment and people in confined spaces such as silos and tanks or ravines, buildings, trenches, or scaffolding when cranes or ladders are not available or may adversely interfere with the operation. Rope techniques are used to rescue people trapped on cellular towers and similar structures using various descent devices, harnesses, and anchor systems. This discipline is the foundation and utilized in other disciplines. It typically is the first course taught to members.

Confined spaces are all around us. Tank vessels, crawl spaces, storm and sewer pipes, ventilation shafts and larger containers with only small accesses. The Confined Space discipline draws on knowledge from the Rope Rescue/access systems and builds with the knowledge of hazardous atmosphere recognition, mitigation using ventilation, metering, victim packaging, and self-contained breathing systems. Individuals learn about Lockout/Tagout procedures to ensure electrical and mechanical equipment cannot be energized or started while teams are in a space. Around the country unfortunate incidents have occurred were multiple people have perished due to entering a bad atmosphere in hopes of rescuing a colleague.

TRENCHTrench ops
A Trench incident was the catalyst for the department to engage in the technical rescue space. As mention at the beginning we lacked the knowledge to help assist in trying to make a better outcome. The construction industry is the predominate creator of trenches typically during the installation of utilities which may create trenches 20-30 feet deep. Knowledge of soil types, air shore pressures, allow depths and various equipment types are all part of the skill sets required for Trench operations

As the name implies, a collapse or partial collapse of a structure can likely lead to further failure and damage. In many cases victims may survive a collapse, but become trapped in void spaces created by the fallen elements. This discipline teaches lifting and stabilization techniques providing knowledge of equipment and methods to create spaces to stabilize and access areas where victims may be. Like most of the missions of the fire service, the goal is to mitigate and stabilize for life safety efforts, not to re-construct or build new.

Members of the department function at all levels of expertise. Once in a trench, silo or similar incident, firemedic may start an IV and provide pain medication to a trapped victim. Operating as part of a team will "package" the victim providing a secure method to move the victim to safety out of the hazard area. This effort is complemented by several support staff all operating in a coordinated fashion performing their respective job functions adhering to National standards such as FEMA's Incident Command System or ICS. 
As mentioned previously, this all occurs with help of our area fire agencies whom we partner and train with regardless of borders.

Kenosha County Specialized Response Team (KCSRT)
This team is comprised of members from various Kenosha County fireKCSRT Logo agencies. Pleasant Prairie is one of the agency members. Each member department will send a contingent of operations and technician level first responders to convergence on an incident. Additional partnerships are built with other County teams from places like; Racine, Walworth, and even Lake County, IL.
The single most important asset is is people. No matter what the situation, an incident will always run out of people first. No one department has enough staff to send to a specialized incident AND maintain the normal call volume within its own jurisdiction. 

The team maintains its own trailer of equipment while utilizing other equipment brought from responding agencies as well. 

The team has responded to silo/grain emergencies, trench rescues and related confined space issues. They work with area businesses that maintain these hazards and partner to be ready. Some of these include Ocean Spray, Kenosha Beef, and the now shuttered Power Plant.

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