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Trench Rescue…A thinking game

Monday, December 12, 2011

Roco Chief Instructor Randy Miller explains that trench collapse injuries and/or death is way too common in civil construction, and industrial maintenance projects. The sluggish economy entices organizations to cut corners, after all – time is money. This trend also extends to the homeowner and weekend warrior. Rather than hiring a certified/trained “trench” professional , do-it- yourself or do-it-with-the-resources on-hand seems the more practical. This breeds disaster.

Miller explains, “REMEMBER: It’s not IF it’s going to collapse again, but WHEN it’s going to collapse again.”

Watch this new video on the importance of Trench Rescue Training, where Miller describes hazards of trench work, and offers 5 tips for safer trench rescue practices.

Five helpful tips for Trench rescue:

1. Personal accountability – Know where all your rescuers are at all times.

2. Keep the area clear – Often the first reaction in a trench collapse is to look, which adds more weight on the sides of the trench, increasing the likelihood of collapse.

3. Work from a safe area – Spread out the weight around the trench (e.g. laying wood down around the trench before stepping near or around it).

4. The best trench rescue is a “non-entry” rescue – If possible, get the trapped victim to begin digging himself out by giving him the right tools, right away. This gives the victim something to focus on while first responders develop an action plan.

5. Donʼt get in over your head – If you are not trained, wait. Donʼt create more victims.

Miller urges all first responders (EMS, fire department, police department, and industrial rescue teams) to receive at minimum an Awareness level of training in Trench Rescue.  First line supervisors are encouraged to advance to the Technician level training.

Roco offers a 20-hour Trench Rescue Technician training course. 
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Trench Warning from OSHA

Monday, October 10, 2011

Two workers are killed every month in trench collapses. Unprotected trenches are among the deadliest hazards in the construction industry and the loss of life is devastating.Since 2003, more than 200 workers have died in trench cave-ins and hundreds more have been seriously injured. OSHA has three new guidance products to educate employers and workers about the hazards in trenching operations.

The new products include a fact sheet, QuickCard and a poster that warns, “An Unprotected Trench is an Early Grave.”

The three documents may be ordered in English- and Spanish-language versions from the Publications page of OSHA’s web site. See the news release for more information.
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Has emergency response improved since 9/11?

Monday, September 26, 2011

We recently read an article from the NFPA Journal about the improvements that have been made since 9/11. Out of this tragedy came some very hard lessons learned – from an emergency response standpoint as well as national security and building codes, especially for high-rise structures. Are we better prepared? Is your department better equipped today for acts of terrorism or natural disaster? Has communications improved among responding agencies? Are you better trained as an emergency responder? An article in the September/October 2011 issue of the NFPA Journal cites three main areas that have improved as a direct result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

These improvements include: (1) interoperability for emergency responders; (2) high-rise building safety; and, (3) emergency preparedness. Staff Writer Fred Durso Jr. cites several NFPA standards developed or enhanced based on the lessons learned from the response, such as the need for an “all-hazards” approach. For example, NFPA 1981, a standard about SCBAs for emergency services, now requires these respiratory products to protect against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents.

NFPA 1851, a standard about protective ensembles for structural and proximity firefighting, now covers cleaning and decontamination of the PPE, and NFPA 1561, Emergency Services Incident Management System, requires using “clear text” terminology during an incident instead of radio codes.

He cites several NFPA standards developed or enhanced based on the lessons learned from the response, such as the need for an all-hazards approach. For example, NFPA 1981, a standard about SCBAs for emergency services, now requires these respiratory products to protect against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents. NFPA 1851, a standard about protective ensembles for structural and proximity firefighting, now covers cleaning and decontamination of the PPE, and NFPA 1561, Emergency Services Incident Management System, requires using “clear text” terminology during an incident instead of radio codes, Durso writes.

NFPA’s High-Rise Building Safety Advisory Committee, formed in 2004, developed proposals for NFPA’s Fire Code, Life Safety Code, and Building Construction and Safety Code to implement recommendations from the NIST investigations (published in 2005 and 2008) into why three of the World Trade Center buildings collapsed after the 9/11 attacks. One change in NFPA 5000, the Building Construction and Safety Code, specifies wider exit stairs when a cumulative occupant load of 2,000 or more people is expected to use them, he writes.

NFPA 1600, the standard for disaster/emergency management and business continuity, has been available free since 2005; the 2010 edition is now available (click here to download). NFPA is developing a program to train people who are charged with auditing private-sector programs that use the 1600 standard, according to the article.

The National Fire Protection Association and the International Code Council, whose model building and fire codes are the blueprint for most U.S. communities, followed most of the 9/11 investigators’ recommendations. They made significant changes in the 2009 and the upcoming 2012 codes, which apply to new high-rise buildings.

The national code improvements include glow-in-the-dark exit markings in stairways; a third or fourth stairway depending on the building’s height; greater separation between those stairways to lessen the chance of a single calamity disabling all of them; stickier, more robust fire-proofing, with inspections to ensure its proper application; backup water supplies for sprinklers; impact-resistant walls around elevator and stairwell shafts; fortified elevators that firefighters and, in some cases, occupants can use in an emergency; stricter and more consistent fire-resistance standards for skyscrapers’ structural components; radio amplifiers that help rescuers better communicate inside buildings; and improved emergency evacuation plans and disaster drills.

 


Illustration by William Neff, John Mangels.

Referring to the image above:

a) More, better sprinklers - must cover all floors, with backup water supply in case the primary system fails.

b) Tougher windows – panels laminated with clear, adhesive film or backed up with Kevlar curtains to prevent flying shards in case of explosion.

c) Spread-out utilities – piping and mechanical equipment for water, electric power, telephone, and air conditioning ducts to be put in separate locations so a single explosion doesn’t take out all systems at once.

d) Structural improvements – to lessen the risk of progressive collapse, additional support columns for redundancy; diagonal bracing to transfer loads if a column fails; improved fireproofing materials; no open web bar trusses, which collapse easily in a fire.

e) Non-obvious obstacles - rather than ugly walls and Jersey barriers, designers employ mix of planters, decorative fencing and benches, to deter car bombers.

f) Added distance – building is set back at least 50-10o feet from street, to blunt blast impact.

g) Access control – building entrances equipped with fingerprint or retina scanners, facial recognition cameras, card readers, metal detectors, explosives sniffers and other screening devices.

h) Blast protection – lower level support columns encased in concrete; exterior walls reinforced with steel plates and backed with Kevlar fabric to absorb explosion energy from a car or truck bomb.

g) Protected Deliveries – mail room and loading docks – where bombs may enter – should be hardened and isolated from critical building systems.

h) Ventilation protection – air-intake shafts should be at least 20 feet above ground level to reduce chances of noxious gases getting inside.

i) Stairwell improvements – minimum of 3 per floor, separated by at least 30 feet; branching at lower floors to allow multiple exits from building; should have fire and impact resistant concrete walls; high-flow ventilation to remove smoke; battery powered emergency lights and loud speakers; luminous paint guide strips and signs in case of power failure; extra wide 66- inch stairs to accommodate evacuees and rescuers.

j) Shielded elevator - building lifts should be shielded from impact with fire resistant shafts and fitted with waterproof electronics, so they can be used to evacuate occupants in fire or blast emergencies.

k) Reliable communication - internal antennas will allow fire and police radios to work throughout the building.

As the fire service began to rebuild and recover from 9/11, departments large and small across the country evaluated their level of preparedness and found it lacking according to an article by Bob Vaccaro,who has more than 30 years of fire-service experience. A key factor in enhancing preparedness was increased funding from DHS and grants from the AFG and SAFER programs.

Thanks to this funding, many municipalities have been able to upgrade apparatus, radio communications and personal protective equipment. We’ve seen decon units and WMD trailers with caches of equipment purchased and stored in various areas of the country. Post-9/11 funding also helped some poorer areas purchase much-needed apparatus. For some departments, it was their first new apparatus in many years; for others, it was their first-ever new rig.

Radio communications and wireless communications have improved vastly since 9/11. Many large cities and counties have purchased command vehicles and have learned and practiced the incident command system. Although we’ve by no means solved the problem of all agencies being able to talk to one another, significant advances have been made.

References:
Occupational Health & Safety
Cleveland.com
Fire Fighter Nation
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Proper Training Required: Why it’s so important!

Monday, August 08, 2011

In this article, we want to provide some background on our experiences with users of rescue equipment, and why we feel proper training is so important.  In the past 30 years, we’ve had the honor of having thousands of students attend our rescue training classes.  Attitudes toward the statement “Do not use this equipment without proper training!” runs the gamut. It goes from “I never read the instructions,” to “I read, understand, and follow them to the T.” As our students come in all shapes, sizes, experience levels, attitudes, and needs, this is understandable.  However, there’s one common denominator, they have come to us for training – and that’s our critical role.

In many cases, an entire rescue team will show up for training with all their rescue gear in tow. They will then tell us that they have never received training on, nor really understand the proper use of their equipment.

So, it really boils down to this – what are the advantages of receiving training on the proper use of the equipment?

Obviously, the primary concern is safety – safety of the users and the rescue subjects. Another critical point includes using the equipment contrary to the manufacturer’s instructions, which can lead to questions of liability. While some manufacturers provide complete and “easy to understand” instructions for use of their equipment, others provide just enough to get the box open.

Note:  While it’s not an NFPA 1983 requirement, most manufacturers do include a statement concerning proper training prior to use.  In fact, there is no NFPA requirement that instructions for use be provided by the manufacturer.

Here are some important questions to consider

What are the working load limitations of the item?  If the gear is used for both planned work activities and for rescue activities, the maximum working loads may be different depending on the application.  In some cases, additional rigging configurations are required for exceptional uses and heavy loads.
What are the effects of using the equipment in a variety of configurations? Are there load multipliers involved in certain configurations that need to be addressed? What are the effects of eccentric loads on the equipment?  Many equipment items are to be used in static load applications only, and can be damaged or catastrophically fail if subjected to dynamic loads.  Oftentimes these issues are not addressed in the user manual, but may be a need to know and understand consideration.

Also, using the item as part of a system may not be covered in the user manual.  It’s important to understand this so that the equipment can be used to its full advantage – and to make sure it’s not subjected to unacceptable loads when used in a system.  Many times the user manual provides bare bones instructions for use and doesn’t cover any instruction for use as part of a system. Nor does it cover the precautions for use as part of a system.

While it seems that more and more manufacturers are moving towards pre-built, engineered systems, it’s not always feasible (or advantageous) to use a pre-built system. However, it is very common to use multiple bits of hardware, software, and rope to create a “build-as-you-go” system that’s appropriate for the job.  Without receiving the proper training on the compatibility of components used in a system, the user may be creating an unsafe condition or missing out on an opportunity for a more efficient solution. Or, miss out on the expanded use of equipment they already have in their cache.

In addition, more rescue gear is being designed to perform multiple functions.  It’s not uncommon for us to hear students say something like, “Wow, I didn’t know it could do that, too!”  Items that are put into the rescue equipment cache with the belief that it is designed to perform one function only, may be another opportunity lost.

Needless to say, we are big advocates of multifunction equipment.  This provides for a smaller, lighter, and quite possibly less expensive rescue equipment cache. It also provides the ability to adapt a given rescue plan and shift the role of the equipment from one function to another.  Typically, there are opportunities to use equipment in a manner that it can be quickly converted from one function to another as part of the plan.  Without the proper training, this may not be obvious by simply reading the user manual.

Finally, how clear is the user manual in explaining criteria for inspection and removal from service?  Depending on what’s provided by the manufacturer (i.e., text and graphics), a piece of equipment may require additional training for the proper inspection points and reasons for taking it out of service.

With that said, we hope it’s perfectly clear that the statement, “proper training is required prior to use” should be taken to heart. It always saddens us to hear of incidents where rescuers are hurt or injured while training for, or in the performance of their duties…especially when the root cause is listed as inadequate training.  Hopefully, you are seeking quality training from a reputable training institution on the proper use of your equipment.  Not just to satisfy a liability issue, but to keep your rescuers safe.  It also allows them to understand and take full advantage of the equipment in their rescue cache – keeping it safe, simple, and effective!
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First Nationwide Emergency Alert System Test Planned

Thursday, August 04, 2011

FEMA and the FCC will conduct the first “nationwide” test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. Eastern time. The test may last up to three and a half minutes, FEMA announced. The test will involve broadcast radio and television stations, cable TV, satellite radio and TV services, and wireline video service providers in all states and the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. The two agencies said this test will help the federal partners and EAS participants determine the reliability of the system and its effectiveness at notifying the public of critical information that could save lives and protect property.

“Because there has never been an activation of the Emergency Alert System on a national level, FEMA views this test as an excellent opportunity to assess the readiness and effectiveness of the current system,” according to Damon Penn, FEMA’s assistant administrator of National Continuity Programs. “It is important to remember that the Emergency Alert System is one of many tools in our communications toolbox, and we will continue to work on additional channels that can be a lifeline of information for people during an emergency.

“The upcoming national test is critical to ensuring that the EAS works as designed,” said Jamie Barnett, chief of FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. “As recent disasters here at home and in Japan have reminded us, a reliable and effective emergency alert and warning system is key to ensuring the public’s safety during times of emergency. We look forward to working with FEMA in preparation for this important test.”

(as reported in OH&S; Jun 09, 2011)
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RescueTalk (RocoRescue.com) has been created as a free resource for sharing insightful information, news, views and commentary for our students and others who are interested in technical rope rescue. Therefore, we make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, or suitability of any information and are not liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis. Users and readers are 100% responsible for their own actions in every situation. Information presented on this website in no way replaces proper training!