From Vision to Reality - Part 1

Working together has become a template for success in one county in upstate New York. Even with the challenges of shrinking budgets, members of the Monroe County fire service keep moving into the future by embracing the concept of working as partners...

The first course conducted on the PSTF training grounds was Medium Structural Collapse Operations: Tools. This course provided the heaviest demand for equipment and raw materials for the students to practice on. Once the students were introduced to the tools and the proper procedures to operate them, it was time to put these newly learned skills to the test. Many of the students had never touched, and in some cases heard of, the tools they were now asked to use. (The Medium Structural Collapse Operations: Tools course falls in line with an article I wrote for in February 2008, titled “Old School’ Techniques.”)

At the completion of the Tools course’s fourth offering, it became obvious that there would not be enough concrete to fulfill the demands of the upcoming Concrete Breaching and Breaking course. After some head scratching and “don’t let them see you sweat” moments, a solution was found. At the time of this program, a never-used simulator adjacent to the training tower being used for the collapse program became the center of attention. It consisted of eight concreted vaults assembled as a confined-space simulator. The concept was good, but the vaults were so large they were not functional for their intended purpose.

The staff from the MCC made a suggestion that eventually led to the location of the new Technical Rescue building. If we disassembled the vaults and placed them strategically around the training tower, we would have more concrete than anyone ever envisioned. The only catch was how to move such large items.

Once again, working together became the model for success. One of the upcoming courses was on Heavy Rigging. By adjusting the course flow and having the Heavy Rigging course prior to the Concrete Breaching and Breaking course, we could have the proper equipment in place to complete the course work and to move the vaults into place.

Lieutenant Ed Tracy from the RFD Special Operations Unit, who worked as the field contact for the entire series, started making calls. He told the Clark Rigging and Rental Co. of his need for a crane to be a part of the program. The company immediately offered to help. Clark Rigging donated the crane for the entire Heavy Rigging Series. The only request it made was for us to pay the operator for his time. This was a great example of the community stepping up to support the fire service.

One catch: How do we pay for the operator? One of the biggest supporters of the fire service, and especially the advancement of the technical rescue program in Monroe County, was Muffy Meisenzahl, the now-retired administrator of the Monroe County Office of Emergency Management. After reviewing our needs and checking into the various grants that the office managed for the community, it was determined that funding of this activity would be in line with one of these grants and the process to obtain the funds was underway.

Moving Forward

Now that the pieces were in place, it was time to move forward. While maintaining the vision of everyone working together, the RFD opened the program to other fire departments in the county.

By the time the series was completed, more than 160 students from the RFD and 11 other departments had been trained. Monroe County departments represented during the training were the Churchville, Egypt, Henrietta, North Greece, Ridge Road and St. Paul fire departments and the Monroe County Fire Bureau.

In addition, members of the Buffalo, Gasport, Montour Falls and New York City fire departments participated in various segments of the program. A student from Germany also took part in the training, giving the project an international flair.

BOB DUEMMEL, the technical rescue editor for and Firehouse Magazine, is the host of "The Buzz on Technical Rescue" on Firehouse Podcasts. He is captain of the Special Operations Unit of the Rochester, NY, Fire Department and serves as the Plans Manager for NY TF-2. He is a member of the NYS USAR IST in the Operations Section and a member of the New York State Technical Rescue curriculum development team. He has delivered training to fire service, industrial, military and international rescue teams and has assisted with exercise evaluation for the United Kingdom and the European Union's USAR program. View all of Bob's articles and podcasts here. He can be reached via e-mail at