Firefighters train for sewer rescues

Friday, September 23, 2005

Jackson firefighters crawled into a replica of a sewer system on Thursday as part of confined-space rescue training.

The exercise was the culmination of three days of training for the Jackson Fire Department. Firefighters started with techniques for ropes and knots on Tuesday and with standards for confined-space rescues set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They rappelled from a tower on Wednesday. Then they rescued three mock victims from a mock sewer Thursday.

"If they get a rescue tomorrow, they could handle it," said lead instructor Bill Albright, an Missouri emergency training specialist.

A team of 12 firefighters trained in an above-ground, 50-foot-long mock sewer system on Lee Road behind a waste transfer facility. One firefighter posed as an uncooperative victim who fell as he was climbing down a 14-foot ladder. A rescue dummy lay "unconscious" 25 feet down the pipeline. And a second firefighter portrayed an injured, aggressive victim at the other end.

Rescuers took an hour and two minutes to complete the rescue, which is a real-world time, Albright said.

Jackson growth is bringing in new subdivisions and sewer lines, fire chief Brad Golden said, and that creates a greater need for public works employees. Aside from children falling into storm drains, the training is needed to protect public works employees, he said.

In several cases, when one worker is injured, another automatically attempts to rescue him and also gets stuck or injured. Firefighters sometimes face five victims who tried to rescue one another, he said. To help prevent that, public works employees participated in the first day of training.

City administrator Jim Roach recently approved the course for city funding. Rose Concrete Products donated the concrete piping, and firefighters spent two weeks building the system. Soon, firefighters from around the region will be welcome to train at the site, Golden said.

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