While there may be a decrease in the number of fires being fought nationwide, fire departments are increasingly being called upon for other kinds of emergencies on a daily basis.
Mickey Conboy, a lieutenant with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), presented some tips for these situations to rescuers at Firehouse Expo in Baltimore on Thursday in a presentation called: “Responding to Everyday Emergencies.”Follow additional coverage at Firehouse Expo 2010.
Using visual images and a collection of war stories, Conboy walked through several real FDNY calls in a case study format.
Perhaps the biggest tip Conboy offered was for firefighters to be in control of every aspect of a call.
“You need to control the scene, you need to control your emotions and you need to control the patient,” he said.
Conboy talked about the rescue of a man trapped in a cement slag, which he characterized having a talcum powder consistency, and of a man trapped in an oil tank with a 22-inch wide opening. He spoke of boys impaled on fences, a woman impaled by a fence in a car wreck, a man whose hand had been caught between a boom bucket and a traffic signal pole, people trapped in building collapses, and victims with things stuck on their fingers.
In all cases, Conboy said rescuers must assess the situation, improvise a plan of attack and, at all times, consider the effects their actions might have on the scene.
“You have to control what is the reaction to your action,” Conboy said. “What you do will have an effect on the results.”
For example, being aware of possible secondary collapses in any confined space or trench rescue is a necessity, as is supporting victims who might be impaled on something, so the weight of their bodies does not cause further damage by ripping and tearing. Even more importantly, Conboy said rescuers must never remove the object stuck in the victim.
“The bottom line is you could kill them if you do,” he said. The best way to rescue an impaled person is to transport the victim and object to the hospital for removal in the emergency room. If the object is too big, it will need to be cut to a manageable size, he said, noting that care must be taken not to further injure the patient, or cause burns from heating the material by saw friction or from cutting with torches.
A lot of the “odd ball jobs” require creativity and improvisation to resolve, Conboy said. Tools used in automotive repairs and other industrial settings are often used to rescue people in peril. Dremel tools, “whizzer saws” and air-driven cut off saws are often the tools of choice to remove items stuck on fingers.
In industrial accidents where people have been caught in machinery like mixers or printing presses, Conboy recommends that firefighters talk to people who service the machinery.
“Maybe they have tools or experience in taking apart the machine for serving that can help with the rescue efforts,” he said.
If that’s not available, he suggested rescuers look at another machine just like the one trapping the victim to figure out how to take it apart.
Finally, rescuers need to think about scene safety and secondary events, especially in trench rescues and building explosions.
“You need to remember that whatever happened, happened,” Conboy said. “You’re there to deal with the aftermath and you don’t want to be part of it.”