South Carolina Trench Rescue Class Ends With Real Rescue

On Friday, May 28th, the Greenville County Emergency Response Team (GCERT) began their second day of trench rescue training at Piedmont Park Fire Department. Little did they know, today's final test would happen on the scene of a real trench rescue.

Training began that day pretty ordinarily, picking up from the previous day, 'We began with 'T' trench training,' said Clint Johnson. (a member of the GCERT as well as a firefighter for Taylors Fire Department)

The day also began pretty ordinarily at Taylors Fire Department as well, except for being a few guys short because 3 members of the shift on duty were at the trench rescue class.

The call came in to TFD shortly after lunch. "Crushing injuries" at a construction site on Aiken Chapel Rd. off Main St. in Taylors. So HQ responded with a light duty rescue truck and an Engine.

Meanwhile back at Piedmont Park Fire Department, the team could hear the radio traffic from TFD and were listening to the call as they began setting up for the final test.

Once the initial units arrived on scene, it was discovered that the victim was laying at the bottom of a trench that was approx. 7 ft. deep, 22 inches wide, and 50 feet long, open on both ends. Although not still under the concrete pipe that had fallen on him, he was injured and could not move. ?We could see him and talk with him, but we couldn?t get to him without risking the lives of my guys? said Battalion Chief Bowen of Taylors Fire Department.

The call went out to the GCERT.

"We had been listening to the call when we heard that it was in fact a trench," said Ricky Burgess (also a member of the GCERT and Firefighter for Taylors Fire Department). So as much equipment as could be loaded was loaded into vehicles and the team responded to the scene, accompanied by the course instructors Don Hedricks and Shae Loftis, who are both members of local fire departments in Greenville.

"It was a great comfort, knowing that the team was not only together already, but that they were actually training with the very same tools that would be needed on our incident." said Ricky Reed (Engineer at Taylors Fire Department)

Even before the team showed up, Bobby Van Pelt (who is a Coordinator for the GCERT and the Assistant Chief with Taylors Fire Department) was being advised about the layout of the whole scene by Lieutenant Wofford who had his men securing the scene and setting up for the rescue. When the GCERT arrived on scene, they were briefed by the IC chief Bobby Baker. At that time, the team leader began assigning the team members jobs to begin the process of shoring up the trench to prevent a collapse. An oxygen mask was handed into the victim to begin initial treatment of the patient. GCEMS was on scene to begin advanced medical care as soon as the patient was removed as well as having a paramedic assigned to enter the trench and begin treatment as soon as it was safe to do so.

"Trench rescue is different than any other type of rescue," said Clint Johnson, "You can't just run in and begin working on the patient, you have to make the scene safe or else you could end up injured or killed."

Once the walls of the trench were shored up, using plywood and 4x4 lumber, a paramedic with GCEMS entered the trench along with a member of the rescue team to stabilize the patient. He was then placed on a SKED stretcher and removed from the trench and transported by EMS.

"The ongoing training between the members of Fire Departments and EMS is essential. This preparation assures that everyone is ready to respond in a variety of emergency rescues," said Asst. Chief VanPelt. "The call went well because of the teamwork between the organizations."

"Very seldom do we have the opportunity to apply the training techniques we teach to real life, but this was a great opportunity. The guys kept it simple and safe and got the job done efficiently," said Shea Loftis.