Can You Do, What You Say, You Can Do?
David Pease, Carolina Fire/Rescue/EMS Journal
This thought provoking article will probably stir some feelings, perhaps even rub some the wrong way, and maybe even get a few, “he hit that nail on the head.” Especially when we look at our capabilities as a rescue provider, and what our department says we can do. The way a lot of folks see it, if we do some training and the chief says we can do it, then I guess we can. But you know what? In there lies the problem.
When we look at rescue, and especially technical rescue, how versed are we really? I try to stay on top of things and I still feel like I’ll never catch up on all the techniques, new equipment, and changing technologies. Do the leaders in your department stay “in the know” on the technical aspects of the rescue you provide? Does your department provide fire protection, first responder, some level of hazmat response, vehicle extrication, and technical rescue as well? Just how much can we do and stay proficient at our job? I had a department that told me they provided vehicle extrication, and they provided technical rescue response for swiftwater, confined space, high angle, and search. They had some equipment to go along with their response. When I talked about training, and the amount we do yearly, they advised they manage to get their 32hrs in to meet the State requirement for benefits. If you figure they got 6hrs for hazmat, 2hrs of blood borne pathogens, and 8hrs for vehicle extrication, then that left them with a whopping 16hrs to dedicate to their technical response. That would give them either 4hrs a year for each discipline they said they provided, or maybe they would do 16hrs a year for each specialty over a four year period. Now the question is, do you want that department to perform a high angle or confined space rescue on you?
There are a number of departments out there that would attempt a technical rescue, with just this type of training. Their response would not necessarily be out of negligence, but more of “well, somebody had to do it.” The response is well intended, but is it going to subject their personnel to undo risk and safety, and open the department up to a nest of liabilities? When the “mess” hits the fan, will there be adequate training and training records to show the department was efficient in the rescue they attempted? Taking a weekend class in confined space rescue or trench collapse rescue does not make the department a technical rescue provider. When we look at NFPA 1670 on technical rescue, it outlines the disciplines and training recommended for technician level response, as well as awareness and operations. I think most will agree, that in most of the disciplines, it would require at least 40 to 60 hours of training for a technician level response.
NFPA 1006 outlines the types of response and the need for guidelines for these responses. Does the department have standard operating guidelines for the different types of rescue they supposedly offer, even at awareness levels? When all is said and done, it is the paper trail that will bury a department. Does the officer in charge of rescue stay well versed on rescue? You want someone in that position that is willing to do the research and push the training for all those concerned. You would not pick just any member to be the Safety Officer, nor should you do the same for rescue.
Please do not misunderstand me, there are departments that have rescue divisions that spend a lot of time training and doing research. They stay on top of new technologies, and their officers are very knowledgeable in technical rescue. It is those departments who just went out and purchased a little bit of equipment, took a weekend class, and now they are ready for a technical rescue response. They will even take another confined space rescue class a couple of years down the road.
This article is not to anger you as to “who is he to question our ability?” but to get you to seriously think about what you offer and if you are truly prepared to respond. If you decide to step into the realm of technical rescue response, please take the time to research out what it will take and the commitment it will require. Then take the steps to meet that commitment. I will be the first to tell you, that technical rescue is an adrenalin rush and I think it is “down right enjoyable.” But I would not put my members at risk because it is something I enjoy. Remember , training is the key, especially in technical rescue, when you may only respond once every few years. Stay sharp, train hard, and stay safe.