By Michael Lee
As anyone who has spent more than a decade in it can tell you, the fire service has topics that are driven by national trends. They run through departments from coast to coast like wildfire and tend to wax and wane, each soon to be replaced by another new, hot or necessary trend.
Hazmat was the buzz word for the 1980s, before being replaced in the 1990s by Technical Rescue. For the first decade of the new century, WMD was the hot topic. While these trends do a great job of driving the creation of services, it seems that the support for these programs seems to disappear as soon as the next political or buzz word comes around.
Monies dry up, organizational support shifts to the new topic, training priorities get over-ridden and personnel are assigned more “significant” tasks. In spite of the lack of funds, flash floods, victim drowning, trench collapses and structure collapses will always occur.
How will your department perform when your funds, equipment and training no longer exist? When was the last time your command team practiced setting up a scenario to run through a specialized operation? Despite a lack of funds or training, you still may be called to perform as a technical rescue operator in your district.
The question to ask is has your district performed a technical rescue needs analysis as NFPA 1670 directs? Have you selected who will perform each type of rescue in your district? Have you established governmental agreements with those neighboring departments that will be providing specific service requirements in your areas? Do you know at what level of operations your district will perform in a rope, trench, water or collapse rescue scenario? All of these things should already be a known quantity. And, do you remember what your command structure and operational envelope will look like?
This article is designed to remind you of what the overall operational parameters will look like. While it will not spell out in detail those step by step instructions that are necessary for a singular technical rescue discipline, it will serve as a strong reminder for those that have not practiced their specialized rescue operations. In addition, it can be used as a beginning foundation for others who have limited exposure to this discipline. Remember, some of the newer folks were not around when the big technical rescue was a buzz word,
The one acronym I use when trying to plan for and execute technical rescue — REPORT — was developed by my boss at the Cunningham (Co.) Fire Department, Division Chief Alim Shariff, when I was just a new firefighter.
The acronym assists in breaking down the differing phases of the technical rescue process to assist with resources, timelines and direction.
It stands for:
R – response
E – evaluation
P – pre-entry
O – operations
R – removal
T – termination
Every technical rescue operation goes through these six phases. Your department may utilize a different acronym, but essentially you will go through each to accomplish the completion of your specialized rescue event.
R — Response
The response phase of the call is broken down into two separate areas — the pre-dispatch and the responding phase. The pre-dispatch phase is that time when district familiarization, pre-planning and resource identification is paramount. You must know what hazards exist in your area, what options you will have to address those operational impacts and where you will get resources from to meet those impacts. The second phase, responding, is the time from when your crew is dispatched to a call to arrival. The company officer must be trained to know when to ask for additional resources and ask for it early. In addition, they should be aware of any special information that is known — such as ingress details, next-in unit instructions and staging areas — and communicate those details to incoming units.
E — Evaluation
Once on scene, your primary task will be to gather information. The first-in unit should conduct an initial approach assessment to determine hazards, type of emergency and additional resource requirements. After the approach assessment, the first arriving Company Officer should transmit a size-up report, implement the appropriate portions of the Incident Command System, establish staging locations, request appropriate resources, gather available information and conduct a risk/benefit analysis.
It is critical to know if the incident involves actually rescuing viable patients or if this is a body recovery. This knowledge determines the pace and urgency of the operation, and more importantly determines the acceptable level of risk in the risk/benefit analysis. Members should provide input into this ongoing analysis. Recovery operations undertaken by responders to recover the remains of victims or property should only be implemented when the risk to responders has been reduced to the lowest level possible.
P — Pre-entry
This step of the process of making the scene and surrounding area as safe as possible. The proper management of this phase of a technical consists of the following steps:
- Isolate — Initial company operations should include taking steps to secure the scene from unauthorized access or actions, as well as attempting to identify and secure a witness or responsible party. With each incident, isolation zones will need to be established to appropriately secure the scene — hot, warm and cold.
- Evacuate — Following the process of isolating the incident will often include evacuating people from the area of the rescue. These people will include Good Samaritan types, fellow workers, EMS, the press and onlookers.
- Lock Out/Tag Out — Lock out/Tag out is a system used to secure and isolate equipment from its source of energy while personnel are working on or near that equipment. While the rescue/extrication is taking place, a firefighter should be posted as a guard with a radio at the energy source.
O — Operations
This phase consists of the actual application of personnel and equipment to perform a rescue or recovery based on the risk/benefit assessment performed in the evaluation phase. Personnel who are certified at the operations level for the specific rescue being performed — rope, confined space, etc. — generally carry out this operation. While it is not essential that all personnel in an operational area be certified as operational, they do need to be directly supervised by an individual who is operations or technician certified. In addition, only those personnel who are integral in the operations and are actually working or delivering logistical needs should be inside the hot zone.
R — Removal
This phase of the technical rescue operation is the safe and effective removal of victims from the hot zone. This may require the collaboration of multiple disciplines to include rope rescue, EMS and extrication personnel. Remember also that specialized medical knowledge may be required to treat patients who may suffer from crush injuries and/or compartment syndrome secondary to structural or trench collapse.
T — Termination
The termination of a specialized rescue event is that time when rescue or recovery of a victim has occurred. The command team should take a short break to allow for members to rehab. It should also take this time to perform another risk/benefit analysis. Is the equipment in the hot zone worth the dangers required to remove them? This is especially critical when comparing the utilization of trench or structural collapse equipment. It may be better to detail the equipment left in the hot zone and bill the owners or contractor for their costs, rather than risk the loss of personnel. If the decision is made to remove equipment from a hot zone, remember to take your time! A large number of injuries and fatalities occur when in the termination phase of an event.
All of these directions will assist in remembering the steps necessary to complete a specialized rescue event. The REPORT acronym is nothing but a memory tool to assist with recalling the resources and requirements for managing a technical rescue call. The key is to practice utilizing this or other systems to ensure that should a specialized rescue event occur in your area, your members are practiced and capable in delivering those skills necessary in a safe effective fashion.
About the Author
Michael Lee has 25 years experience in pre-hospital paramedic experience and about 20 years experience in the fire service. He started as a FF/Paramedic and worked up through the ranks, including training officer, to his current position as battalion chief. He currently serves as battalion chief at Mountain View Fire Protection District in Colorado. He is currently filling the role of safety officer for FEMA USAR Colorado Task Force One and has military service in the U.S. Navy. To contact Michael, email [email protected]ue1.com.
This content provided in partnership with FireRescue1.com
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