First Responders Learn the Ropes

Oct. 16, 2023
Jeffrey Riechmann details how a group of Idaho first responders trained for rope rescues by rappelling down a rock face.

Shouts of commands punctured the silence on a recent Saturday afternoon at a rock quarry west of New Meadows, ID. The quarry was playing host to first responders from throughout Adams County as they gained firsthand experience in working with ropes.

Eight members of the Idaho County Sheriff’s Grangeville Mountain Rescue Unit traveled to New Meadows to conduct the training under the leadership of Brian Adams. The Grangeville Mountain Rescue Unit is one of only a handful of search and rescue units in Idaho that have extensive training and experience in rope rescue. This was their first visit to New Meadows. Sixteen members of the Meadows Valley Emergency Services, Council Volunteer Fire Department, Indian Valley Volunteer Fire Department, and the Payette Lakes Ski Patrol participated in the training.

Meadows Valley Fire Chief Doug Buys spoke about his department having responded to vehicle accidents in which vehicles were 50 to 100 feet over the side of the road, requiring first responders to utilize ropes to get to the vehicles. His department has recently acquired a cache of rope rescue equipment and this training provided his firefighters with the opportunity to learn how to use the equipment more effectively.

Classroom training at the Meadows Valley Emergency Services Building lasted three hours and covered an introduction to the various equipment utilized by rescue teams in a rope rescue and how to use that equipment. This was followed by learning how to tie a variety of knots that are used in rope rescue.

Once the participants were comfortable with the information that they had received in the classroom, they then moved to the quarry where they spent four hours putting their new knowledge to use.

Hands-on training

For most of the participants, this was their first-time rappelling down a rock face. Even though the height of the rock face was somewhat intimidating, none of the participants hesitated at the opportunity to “hang from the ropes!”

Trevor Early was part of the training as he was spending the day working on his senior project for school. Early’s project is to provide support for the Grangeville Mountain Rescue Unit. In addition to helping conduct the training, Early also found himself rappelling down the rock face and serving on a team that carried a simulated victim from the top of the rock face to the bottom and then brought it back to the top.

Early also helped teach a young man with special needs, Cody Black, how to tie the various knots. Black is a regular at Meadows Valley Fire’s training events, watching his father and other firefighter’s train.

The training was deemed a success by everyone involved. Chief Buys has already expressed a desire to host the training again next year!

The training was coordinated by McCall-based nonprofit Courageous Kids Climbing, which travels throughout the western United States sharing the rock-climbing experience with people with special needs. Because most of their climbing events are supported by first responders, Courageous Kids Climbing gives back to first responders by coordinating free training in rope rescue-related subjects and how to better interact with people with special needs.

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