Designing an apparatus to respond to technical rescue incidents is no easy task. Making the proper decisions for the needs of the apparatus is time consuming and costly. So too is the process of recognizing the types of technical rescue responses, specialized training, and the equipment needed...
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Designing an apparatus to respond to technical rescue incidents is no easy task. Making the proper decisions for the needs of the apparatus is time consuming and costly. So too is the process of recognizing the types of technical rescue responses, specialized training, and the equipment needed to safely and successfully handle these situations.
The fire service responds to an array of emergency situations. One type of incident that seems to be occurring more in the fire service is the need to operate at technical rescue incidents. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1670, Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents, categorizes rescue incidents into seven areas that can take place in any community: structural collapse, rope rescue, confined-space search and rescue, vehicle and machinery rescue, water search and rescue, wilderness search and rescue, and trench and excavation rescue. This standard should be used in the development and objectives for your department's technical rescue team. Is your department's technical rescue team prepared to handle these incidents?
Along with the apparatus selection, you must fulfill the functionality of your team. This is accomplished by specialized training in the above entities and providing the team with the tools needed to effectively conduct a rescue. With the reduction of funding and manpower, the expectations of the fire service have seemed to only increase. With proper leadership, training and the needed equipment, we can continue to accomplish our goal of safe and effective ways of serving ourselves and our communities.
Confined-space rescue operations, for example, require specialized equipment. Immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) air conditions can cause death in a confined space, so the air must be monitored throughout the incident. The quality of air in the space will determine the need to be on a continuous supplied-air system. Exhaust fans can also be placed outside the space to allow the exchange of air. Rescuers entering the space, along with members preparing to enter as additional rescuers or as a rapid intervention team, need to have communications and air supply in place. Many teams use a two-bottle self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cart system that allows for as many as four rescuers to be on air at the same time. These systems permit 300 feet of supplied-air hose to be attached to each rescuer during the operation. Along with supplied air, rescuers need an emergency escape breathing device (EEBD) for use in the event of a failure of the supplied-air system. Most EEBDs are designed with 10- or 15-minute cylinders of air to be used to let a rescuer leave the confined space safely.
The communications needs of rescuers to the outside of the space are typically met by using an intrinsically safe hardline radio system. Portable radios or handi-talkies can be used, but using a hardline radio system proves to be more dependable and allows the rescuer ease in communicating. A bone microphone and head harnesses with the speakers work well with SCBA masks and rescue helmets.
Rescuers must be in a Class III full-body harness while operating in a confined space, as per Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standard 1910.146. Ropes must be attached to rescuers throughout the operation for safety and retrieval. Once rescuers have gained access to the victim, packaging techniques must be considered.
A hasty harness made of webbing or a manufactured harness should be applied to the victim during removal. Once the victim is packaged, they must be extricated by using a retrieval system. Retrieval systems vary depending on whether the rescue is horizontal or vertical. In a horizontal confined-space rescue, a simple mechanical-advantage rope system requires less effort by rescuers inside the space to extract the victim. Using manpower on the outside of the space on the haul system is a more effective way of bringing the victim and rescuers out. Static kernmantle rope of half-inch diameter is used for the rescuer and the retrieval system used during the victim removal.