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Rescue Challenge Spotlight - Valero Wilmington

Friday, May 10, 2019

“It’s an intense two days. It’s exhausting and hard, but it’s also a lot of fun. I tell all my guys, ‘you’ll work your butt off at Rescue Challenge, but you’ll love every minute it.’”

- Randy Pickering, Asst Fire Chief, Valero Wilmington Refinery
If you’ve ever flown from LAX Airport, there’s a good chance the fuel in your airplane was refined at Valero Wilmington, a leading independent refinery of transportation fuels and petroleum products.

Assistant Chief Randy Pickering oversees training for the refinery’s 40+ rescuers, who are divided into four teams by shift. Made up of operators, maintenance techs, welders, electricians and more, these individuals sign up for the additional responsibilities and training because they love the challenge of it, and because they want to be there to help their co-workers in case of an emergency.

Valero Wilmington has attended Roco Rescue Challenge nearly every year since 1991 and has a stellar track record in the annual event. The safety and effectiveness of the team is a commitment taken very seriously by the group, and Challenge helps them hone their skills to the max, enhancing their culture of safety.

The team of ten rescuers who travel to Baton Rouge each October have earned the privilege to represent Valero Wilmington by winning an in-house rescue competition.

“We use Roco Rescue Challenge as a motivator for all our rescue teams and a reward for those who are selected to go,” says Randy.
From unusually challenging high-line scenarios to seemingly impossibly small confined spaces, Randy is proud of the way his team thinks on their feet and works together in unfamiliar rescue scenarios. For Valero Wilmington, each Rescue Challenge has been a rewarding learning experience, as well as an opportunity to bring home a coveted trophy (the team’s good-natured, friendly SoCal exterior conceals a competitive streak…).

The Roco Rescue Challenge has one open team slot remaining.

Observers welcome! 
If you’re not ready to sign-up a team, join us as an observer. Watch the teams as they tackle some very challenging scenarios – it’s a great learning experience. 

To sign up your team or as an observer, call us at 800-647-7626.

 
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Non-Entry Confined Space Rescue…Are You Sure?

Tuesday, May 07, 2019
by Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator

There are three generally accepted types of confined space rescue: self-rescue, non-entry retrieval, and entry rescue. Just as with the hierarchy of hazard mitigation, confined space rescue should be approached with an ascending hierarchy in mind. 

  1. Self-rescue is typically the fastest type and eliminates or at least greatly reduces the chance that anyone else will be put at risk. For these reasons, it is the first choice, but it is unrealistic to think that an entrant would be able to rescue themselves in all situations.
  2. Non-entry retrieval is the next choice. OSHA stipulates that non-entry retrieval must be considered as a means of rescue – more on that shortly.
  3. Entry rescue is the last choice, largely because it exposes the rescuers to the same hazards that the original entrant faced.

OSHA recognizes the inherent danger of entry rescue, which is why the organization mandates “retrieval systems or methods shall be used whenever an authorized entrant enters a permit space.” However, OSHA goes on to qualify this statement with two very important exceptions. OSHA requires non-entry retrieval, “unless the retrieval equipment would increase the overall risk of entry or would not contribute to the rescue of the entrant.”  Let’s examine each of these two provisions more closely... 

  1. Non-entry retrieval is required “…unless the retrieval equipment would increase the overall risk of entry.” For example, if the retrieval line would create an entanglement hazard that would impede the entrant’s ability to exit the space, then the retrieval system should not be used and entry rescue should be the choice.
  2. And non-entry retrieval is required unless the equipment “…would not contribute to the rescue of the entrant.” The key here is that the non-entry method employed must be viable. It must work when called into action.

For non-entry retrieval systems, we are relying on that retrieval line to exert forces on the entrant to pull them out of the space without help from any other device or human intervention within the space. It must perform without someone inside the space maneuvering the victim or otherwise providing assistance to the retrieval system. It has to work independently of any other forces other than what is generated from outside the space. This extremely important point is often overlooked and has resulted in many fatalities. Sadly, many of those fatalities were the would-be rescuers that attempted entry rescue when the retrieval system failed to do its intended job.

Situations that may render the retrieval system useless would be any configuration or obstruction inside the space that would prevent the system from pulling the victim clear of the space in an unimpeded manner. This could be pipework or obstructions on the floor for a horizontal movement. Likewise, pulling an unconscious victim around corners may render a retrieval system ineffective. If the entrant moves over any edge and down into a lower area offset from an overhead portal even at moderate angles, the retrieval system will probably not be able to pull an inert victim up and over that edge, even if the drop were only a foot or so.

It must be clearly understood that retrieval systems may quite possibly be applying forces on a limp human body, which, as harsh as this sounds, becomes a sort of anchor. It requires a very thorough and honest evaluation of where the entrant will be moving in the space in order to perform their planned work, and what obstructions or structural configurations are in that path. If there is any possibility that the system will not be able to pull an unconscious, inert victim along that path, then the retrieval system is NOT viable.

Human Nature vs The Best Laid Plans - An Example

Okay, so you have done a thorough and honest evaluation of the space, its configuration, and internal obstructions and determined that there is a clear path from the entrant’s “planned” work area, which is offset ten feet from the overhead portal eight feet above. Clearly, the retrieval system will be able to pull the victim out of the space should the need arise. Enter human nature, and with that comes bad decisions. Murphy’s Law has a very nasty way of changing things for the worse. 

What if, in the course of the planned work, our entrant drops his wrench down into a sump immediately adjacent to his work zone but further from the overhead portal? The fixed ladder down into the sump is only five feet and he can clearly see the wrench stuck in the sludge below. He asks for slack on the retrieval line, climbs down into the sump, bends down to grab his wrench and is nearly immediately rendered unconscious due to an undetected atmospheric hazard. 

The attendant/rescuer sees that the entrant’s head and shoulders do not reappear and within several seconds calls to ask if he is ok, only to hear no answer. He calls several more times, but still no answer. He begins to haul with the retrieval system, which consists of a wire rope winch mounted to a tripod.  The cable becomes tight and the tripod shudders and shifts slightly, then all progress stops. The would-be rescuer tries with all his might to pull the entrant’s limp body up and over the 90-degree concrete edge, but cannot. 

In a panic, the attendant/rescuer climbs down into the space and over to the sump where he sees the entrant pulled tightly against the wall of the sump but not off the floor. He climbs down into the sump to attempt to lift the entrant’s 200-pound limp body up and over the five-foot wall. As soon as he bends down to cradle him, the hazardous atmosphere overcomes him also. Two fatalities later, we wonder how our non-entry rescue retrieval system could have failed us. It would not have, had human nature not interfered and caused two people to make bad decisions. 

That story was intended to point out that things do not always go according to plan. Not only do we humans make bad decisions on occasion, but we also have accidents due to trips, slips, and falls that may send us to an area that the retrieval system may not work. Conditions inside the space may change in such a manner that it affects the retrieval system. 

For all these reasons I implore you to evaluate the capability of the retrieval system to work not only when things go according to plan, but also to evaluate the system based on the “what ifs.” For the “what ifs” that involve bad decisions, that is a matter of training and communicating to the entry team why they cannot deviate from the work plan, even to fetch that dropped wrench. For the “what ifs” that include trips, slips, falls, or equipment failures, it may be time to consider a back-up plan, which may include an entry rescue capability. 


Pat Furr is a chief instructor, technical consultant, VPP Coordinator and Corporate Safety Officer for Roco Rescue, Inc. As a chief instructor, he teaches a wide variety of technical rescue classes including Fall Protection, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue and Suspended Worker Rescue. In his role as technical consultant, he is involved in research and development, writing articles, and presenting at national conferences. He is also a member of the NFPA 1006 Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications Standard. Prior to joining Roco in 2000, he served 20 years in the US Air Force as a Pararescueman (PJ).

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Cindy Sharrer Named as Roco's Chief Financial Officer

Thursday, May 02, 2019

As CFO for Roco Rescue, Cindy oversees all corporate finance and accounting-related activities. This includes leading the team that processes all the financial transactions, from purchase orders and paychecks to customer invoices. Cindy ensures that the books are in order and that the company has adequate liquidity. She provides reporting and guidance on financial matters that ensures the overall health and vitality of the organization.

Cindy also provides the vision, develops the design, and implements the plan for the company’s information systems, drawing on her experience in a past life as an IT consultant and systems integrator. She is particularly passionate about automation and driving efficiencies, helping to eliminate mundane tasks which allows the staff to focus on the more specific needs of Roco’s customers.

Prior to joining Roco Rescue in 2001, she worked as an IT consultant helping a variety of businesses manage the complexities of their operations with IT solutions. Roco was one of her customers in this role. She has also worked for a bank and an oil & gas company, where in both cases she helped them streamline their business processes, navigate periods of transformation, implement new solutions, and install tools to manage the synthesis of technology.

Born in New Orleans, Cindy moved to Baton Rouge as a child and has made the city her home. Her family is her greatest blessing and she enjoys spending all her free time with her loved ones. She is married and has three daughters. Her oldest daughter owns a dance studio and her two younger daughters are active in competitive cheerleading. Cindy spends much of her spare time away from work travelling to competitions and recitals to cheer them on. In her even less spare time, she enjoys sewing, working out and is active in her church.
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Alex Reckendorf Named as Roco's General Manager

Thursday, May 02, 2019

As General Manager for Roco Rescue, Alex’s primary role can be described as that of a visionary, where he collaborates with owner and President Kay Goodwyn to develop the company’s vision – and perhaps also as an air traffic controller, where he works to ensure that other company leadership receives the support and resources needed to put that vision into action.

During his six years with the Air Force, Alex served as a Pararescueman (PJ), where he took courses with Roco Rescue. In was in these courses, that he discovered a passion for teaching technical rescue. He worked part time with Roco’s Tactical Mobile Training Unit until he later received a full-time job offer. He has been with Roco full-time since 2010.

Alex splits his time outside the office between Maine and Florida, where he enjoys being outdoors with his wife and two young sons.

"Yes, this is for me."

This is how Alex Reckendorf responded when a friend pointed him toward technical rescue as a career – a calling that he has found deeply fulfilling since 2002.

From an early age, Alex was service-minded. He enlisted in the United States Air Force immediately after finishing high school, and his six years of active duty included multiple deployments with the Pararescuemen (PJs). Alex notes that many still picture PJs performing traditional rescues by “hopping off a helicopter and picking someone up,” but that simple mission profile has become a highly skilled discipline, leading him to a long career in tactical rescue instruction.

Alex was first introduced to Roco Rescue in 2006 when he attended a training class in Montana – a three-day tactical course on deep mineshaft rescue – to hone his skills as a PJ. Just over one year later, he enrolled in Roco Rescue’s two-week tactical course, which he describes as “bread and butter” skills training for Pararescuemen: confined space rescue, high angle training, rope access, urban climbing, structural collapse rescue, and vehicle extrication.

Upon returning from his last deployment with the PJs, Alex got out of the Air Force and charted a path towards becoming a firefighter. He changed his plans, however, when a phone call to a former instructor and mentor at Roco Rescue turned into a job offer.

A Passion for Training and Teaching

Throughout his career with Roco Rescue, Alex’s role has evolved. He started as an assistant tactical instructor and until recently still occasionally served as a lead instructor for Roco’s various tactical training programs, including confined space training, structural collapse rescue, rope rescue training, climbing, high-angle/mountain rescue training, and other forms of technical rescue. Throughout the years, his work has entailed setting up highline traverse systems over gorges, rappelling down sky-high cargo containers on vessels, and guiding students through exercises in World War II warships to practice confined space rescue tactics. He particularly loves working with experienced Pararescuemen, in part because, “…we learn, too. They have excellent questions…Then we get into problem-solving, and that’s where I have the most fun.”

In recent years, Alex has spent most of his time on a variety of managerial duties. He handled proposals and pricing, managed large government contracts, and was deeply involved in both the finance and human resources functions of the company. While most of these are considered back-office activities, Alex knows from his days as a PJ that success often depends on the planning and administrative work that happens behind the scenes almost as much as the efforts of those on the front lines.

And as his managerial responsibilities have grown, Alex’s love for teaching rescue has grown to include other ways that Roco serves rescuers…and those they protect. “Whether we’re training a rescue team or providing one of our own standby teams for a client facility, our commitment to emergency responders at all levels ultimately, including our own rescuers, makes sure that people return safely to their families each night. From the welder at a plant to the infantryman in the Middle East, Roco exists to bring them home safe.”

Rescue as Prevention

Alex summarizes Roco Rescue’s mission in one word: Safety. “We do that through the education of the rescuers,” he says. “Keeping them safe, and helping them keep the people they’re looking after safe.”

When asked what differentiates Roco Rescue from other technical rescue companies he says, simply, “our people.”

“We’ve got some really unique, experienced people. All of that gets distilled into our training.” While there are other technical rescue companies, Alex believes people continue to come to Roco Rescue because “we are better at keeping people safe. We don’t just fill a square. We make rescuers better at what they do.”

Speaking specifically about Roco Rescue’s Contracted Safety and Rescue Teams (CSRT), Alex says, “We really don’t do many rescues, and that’s the point -- because we work to prevent them.”

And it’s no secret that Roco Rescue does this extremely well. In his experience teaching tactical training courses, Reckendorf has witnessed incredible success stories. When a PJ team that was training on the U.S.S. Alabama happened to witness a ship worker fall and injure himself, the Roco Rescue students were able to lower the man from the ship’s platform and call for medical help. You can read about that rescue here. And when Roco Rescue-trained PJs deployed to Haiti after the devastating earthquakes a few years ago, a responding FEMA team wrote letters lauding their skill and dedication.

Alex’s Vision for Roco Rescue

Alex anticipates tremendous growth for Roco Rescue’s industrial rescue programs in the coming years, particularly given the continued focus on assembling strong teams for contracted safety/rescue work, as well as mobile training teams. Providing the highest caliber training for military and municipal teams across the country will also remain an area of focus. “We’re constantly updating our course content,” he says, “tweaking our equipment kits and modifying our techniques to be safer and more efficient.”

Alex also hopes to call greater attention to Roco Rescue’s refresher courses. “We get great reviews,” he says, but he emphasizes how important it is for course alumni to return every few years to refresh their training and refine their rescue skills. This is particularly important in a culture where many people don’t understand that rescue skills are perishable – they are “use it or lose it” skills that need to be reviewed and practiced. Alex stresses that this is not a matter of checking a compliance box, but rather, it is about prevention, safety, and ultimately, preserving lives.

More Than a Job

Alex resides in both sunny Florida and snowy Maine, where he enjoys spending time with his wife and two young sons. Beyond that, he deeply enjoys his work with Roco Rescue.

“This is not just a job, for any of us. It’s a whole lot more than that,” he says. “I think our clients know this. We care, from the owner right down to the individual instructor and rescuer.”

Alex recognizes that what it comes down to is, simply, “we are the people we serve.” Many Roco Rescue instructors and rescue crew members are still active firefighters, PJs, or other military reservists, and so they know well and understand the importance of what they are doing. This makes the work they do close to home, relatable, tangible, and critical.

Because of this, Alex says, their work “is, and always will be, near and dear to our hearts.”

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Trenches: A String of Fatalities

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

A rash of trench incidents has left behind multiple fatalities and untold devastation to families. The following incidents occurred in only a matter of weeks. We log these incidents as a reminder of how deadly trenches can be. Proper training and the right equipment are needed before attempting a rescue; or, as in most cases, a recovery.

These events came to our attention over recent weeks including one incident in which the victim was not even in the trench until the ground collapsed beneath him. Another incident happened adjacent to the department where one of our Roco Chief Instructors (Brad Warr) works in Idaho. His department also responded.

As you read these accounts, pay careful attention to how tragic and deadly these incidents can be.

We’ve also included two successful trench rescues at the end of these stories.

REMEMBER: OSHA advises to “Protect Yourself…” Do not enter an unprotected trench! Trenches 5-feet deep or greater require a protective system unless the excavation is made entirely in stable rock. Trenches 20-foot deep or greater require protective systems designed by a registered professional engineer. OSHA also requires safe access and egress to all excavations, including ladders, steps, ramps or other safe means in trenches 4-feet or deeper. The devices must be located within 25-feet of all workers.

Worker Killed After Being Trapped in 16-Foot-Deep Trench

(4/26/19) DEKALB COUNTY, GEORGIA 

Fire-Rescue crews were called out to a subdivision construction site Friday afternoon in DeKalb County after crews reported that a 16-foot trench had collapsed on top of a worker.

Firefighters said that the man was helping to guide a backhoe as it dug the trench and the ground gave way, trapping the construction worker inside.

"The ground below him caved in and he fell into the hole. The hole was about 16 feet deep and about two feet of dirt on each side of the hole fell on top of the victim and covered him up," said Capt. Dion Bentley with DeKalb Fire Rescue.

Firefighters reported that two other construction workers at the site tried to rescue the victim when it first happened.

Investigators said there was no trench box inside the hole when the collapse happened. Crews said that was because no one was working inside the trench when the collapse happened. It is unclear if that violates OSHA rules. OSHA officials will now be responsible for investigating the incident.

Man Dies Before Being Rescued from Trench

(4/25/19) ALPINE, UTAH

A man working to install a pool in the backyard of a home died in a trench collapse Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

The victim, a 53-year-old man, was pronounced dead at the scene from injuries suffered in the collapse, Lone Peak Fire Chief Reed Thompson said.

Lone Peak Fire Department crews responded to the collapse shortly after 1 p.m. When crews arrived, they found a man with dirt up to his waist.

"We were told by others on scene that prior to our arrival, he had been encapsulated up to his neck," Thompson said.

The man died before crews could rescue him from the fallen trench, Thompson added. The Lone Peak Fire Department was helped in the recovery effort by the Utah County Technical Rescue Team, which includes crews from American Fork, Lehi, Pleasant Grove and Orem.

"In this particular incident, the victim was in a trench that did not have any security measure in place — such as shoring — and was deeper than what OSHA requires at 4 feet," Thompson said. "As a result of that, you've got heavy dirt and other materials that can potentially fall or collapse into the open hole, which is what occurred."

Man Dies When Trench Collapses

(4/21/19) LYCOMING COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

One man was killed in a rural area when a trench dug to fix a water line problem collapsed around him. The man was pronounced dead in the trench but it took nearly three hours to remove the body. Rescuers first had to shore the sides of the eight-foot deep ditch. The coroner listed asphyxiation as the cause of death.

While there were no witnesses to the collapse, family members believe he was buried about 15 minutes in the 15-foot long x 6-foot wide trench. Family members had cleared the clay-based soil from around the victim’s head before emergency responders arrived at the scene.

Although no pulse was detected, rescuers continued to remove dirt down to his waist in a rescue effort. Those efforts were discontinued once a paramedic with a heart monitor determined he was dead.

Two Workers Die in Colorado Trench Collapse

(4/17/19) WELD COUNTY, COLORADO

Two construction workers died after having been trapped in a 15-foot-deep trench that collapsed on top of them at a Colorado residential property.

The Fire Chief of Windsor Severance Fire Rescue said that the two men were working in the trench when it collapsed, completely burying them in dirt and compact soil.

Despite an hours-long rescue operation, both men died from injuries sustained in the incident. It was early the next morning when the fire department announced that the operation had switched from a rescue to a recovery effort, which was expected to take several more hours.

When Windsor Fire Rescue arrived on the scene, workers had been able to insert a PVC pipe to one of the trapped men, allowing him to communicate with the rescue crews above ground. No contact with the second worker was made, the release said.

The soil condition of where the workers were trapped made the excavation process more difficult as only small hand shovels and buckets could be used since the ground was both unstable and compacted.

Extreme caution was used to prevent further injury to the two men, the release said.

When rescue workers reached the trapped men, they had already succumbed to their injuries.

(Photo used above is courtesy of Windsor Severance Fire Rescue.)

Two Dead After Trench Collapse

(4/10/2019) NEW PLYMOUTH, IDAHO

Two men, working for a private company installing irrigation pipes in a rural area, were killed when the trench they were working in collapsed. Emergency responders were able to extricate the two men from the trench, but were unable to resuscitate them.

Payette County dispatchers sent three different fire departments, paramedics, law enforcement, two separate highway departments and a private construction company to the scene to extricate the men.

TRENCH RESCUES:

Man Rescued after being Buried Up to His Waist

(April 2019) FREMONT, CALIFORNIA

A man was rescued when he was trapped up to the waist in a trench incident. The Fremont Fire Department was able to remove the individual from the trench. The victim was hospitalized with moderate injuries.

Construction Worker Rescued from Trench

(April 2019) CALDWELL, IDAHO

A construction worker was taken by air ambulance to a local hospital after getting hit by a bucket that fell off a tractor into a trench, according to the Caldwell Fire Department.

Either water or sewer lines were being installed when a bucket detached from a tractor and injured a construction worker in the approximately 20-foot-deep trench, said Caldwell Fire Chief Mark Wendelsdorf.

The bucket had to be removed from the trench before the man was rescued, though Wendelsdorf did not know if that meant the man was pinned by the bucket, or if it was only preventing him from getting out.

The Nampa Fire Department’s ladder truck was used and acted as a rigging system to get the injured man out.

The trench did have a trench box and shoring in place. OSHA is investigating the incident, according to a Department of Labor spokesperson.

The rescue took about an hour, as crews made sure that the trench would not collapse while the technical rescue took place.

NOTICE:
At some time, every emergency responder may be called to a trench incident – whether a rural area or industrial construction site. Know, at minimum, how to protect yourself. Roco Trench Rescue courses offer safe, practical techniques for dealing with trench rescue incidents. Sign up now or call to observe one of our hands-on trench classes.

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