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PJ’s Perform Rescue on the USS Alabama

Thursday, September 25, 2014

During a recent Roco Combat Technical Rescue course onboard the USS Alabama, an elite group of Pararescuemen were called to the “real thing” when a ship worker took a fall and needed to be rescued. According to Roco Tactical Chief Instructor Alex Reckendorf, the PJ’s performed a flawless rope rescue and integrated well with the Mobile Fire Department. He added, “As trainers, we are obviously very proud of their performance during this unexpected event. They represented both Pararescue and Roco well and are a credit to their career field.” 

Eight local pararescue airmen from Hurlburt Field were in the middle of a training session aboard the USS Alabama on Tuesday when they found themselves in the right place at the right time.


On the second day of their confined space rescue training, the airmen from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron were setting up for a rope rescue practice when a civilian painter, perched precariously on a ledge, fell 30 feet to one of the decks below.

The airmen jumped to action.

They gathered their gear, which included their medical equipment, and rushed to the scene of the accident.

The man landed on a deck about 50 feet above the main deck. He was experiencing severe back pain and feeling out of it from hitting his head.

The airmen secured his back and gave him the medical attention he needed while coming up with a game plan for how to use their ropes to get him down to the main deck and then off the ship.

“It was pretty exciting for most of the guys to be able to utilize the training we had been working on all day and the day prior,” said Tech Sgt. Jason Humes, one of the pararescuemen who helped with the rescue. “It was all very fresh in our minds.”

Once the Mobile County firefighters arrived, the special tactics team explained their plan and worked together to secure the man in a rescue basket and use ropes to leap-frog him down from the deck and to the waiting ambulance.

Humes said an official from the USS Alabama reported to him on Wednesday that the man had broken a vertebrae, but they expected he would be back on his feet in several weeks and have a full recovery.

“All of us feel good we were able to help out and get him off as quick as we could so he’ll be up and running again in a few weeks,” Humes said.


Air Force Special Tactics pararescuemen are special operators whose primary mission is personnel recovery. They provide emergency and life-saving services for some of the more dangerous U.S. military missions, including deploying with Army Special Forces and Navy SEALs.

Air Force Lt. Jesse Galt, a special tactics officer who supervises several of the pararescumen involved in the rescue, was proud to see his airmen put their training to use in their real lives.

“It is a testament to their training and their poise that they are able to deploy those skills regardless of the situation,” he said. “It was cool to see.”

The article was written By LAUREN SAGE REINLIE | Daily News

Photo credit: U.S. AIR FORCE | Special to the Daily News

 

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Retired and Dangerous...Mothballed Vessels and Abandoned Equipment

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In a recent article in ASSE’s Professional Safety magazine, we found some very important points to consider for rescuers. Whether you are preparing for stand-by rescue operations, getting ready to enter an “abandoned in place” vessel, or just found the “perfect” retired vessel to use for your upcoming rescue training…proceed with caution!

The article does a great job of reminding us that not so long ago the emphasis on safety was far less than it is today. This becomes very clear when we compare current safety practices, such as Management of Change (MOC), and how the absence of that particular management tool has left many retired confined spaces and other systems in a potentially dangerous state.


Because of the potential dangers posed to emergency responders, we wanted to share this article with our readers.

Click to download the full article

Here are some key points from the article “Retired and Dangerous, Out-of-Service Equipment Hazards” by Robert Wasileski.

• Management of Change is emphasized more during the design and operational phase of equipment life cycles, but receives little emphasis when it is time to retire the equipment. 

• Older facilities have a high potential to have retired equipment that haven’t had all hazards addressed and may pose serious risks.

• Equipment that has been out of service for an extended period of time often has very little data on record stating how it was prepared to be taken out of service.

• There are many instances of chemical reactions that can change the physical condition of the equipment over time.  

The author provides several case studies that are truly enlightening. It includes some excellent lessons for rescuers when dealing with out-of-service or “moth-balled” vessels. While a couple of the cases delve pretty deeply into chemical reactions, it serves as a critical reminder of how important it is to check with a qualified person. Remember…just because a vessel has been out of service for a long period of time does not mean there are no hazards present!

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Are You Sure You Don't Need On-Air Rescue Practice?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Reported by Dennis O’Connell, Director of Training

After more than 25 years in the rescue industry, I always cringe a bit when I hear rescue teams say they don’t practice “on-air” rescues because personnel at their facilities are not allowed to do planned work activities in IDLH or low O2 areas. But I always ask, what about the permit spaces that may have the “potential” for atmospheric hazards? What about those spaces that may unexpectedly become IDLH or low O2 – what then?  

"I have raised this flag many times before and according to NIOSH, a little less than half the deaths from atmospheric conditions occurred in spaces that originally tested as being acceptable for entry. Something happened unexpectedly, and something went very wrong."

Remember, OSHA states that a confined space simply has to have the “potential” for a hazardous atmosphere; not that it is actually present as one of the triggers to make a space a “permit required space” and require rescue capabilities.

So, for these unexpected instances, do you really have the appropriate rescue response in place? In our opinion, not training your team to respond to IDLH emergencies is like buying a gun for home protection, but not buying any bullets.

Also, 1910.146 section (k)(1)(i) makes reference to 1910.134 OSHA’s respiratory regulation. Here OSHA talks about respiratory protection being worn by entrants as the trigger for “standby” rescue personnel capable of immediate action. It is not necessarily based on the level of O2. It calls for “rescue standby” not rescue “available.” Immediate action is called for… not just a timely response

OSHA Note to Paragraph (k)(1)(i)…
What will be considered timely will vary according to the specific hazards involved in each entry. For example, §1910.134, Respiratory Protection, requires that employers provide a standby person or persons capable of immediate action to rescue employee(s) wearing respiratory protection while in work areas defined as IDLH atmospheres.

If that’s not a hint as to how seriously OSHA takes the possibility of an IDLH atmosphere arising in a permit space, I don’t know what would be.

So, if you don’t think you’ll ever need on-air rescue capabilities, take a look at this incident from a few years back. The way this confined space fatality occurred and the possibility of it happening is a real eye opener. It emphasizes the critical importance for considering all possible (or potential) hazards associated with confined space entry and rescue.

Folks what I’m trying to say here is, as rescuers, we need to be prepared for the worst case scenario as well as the unexpected! This is especially true when it comes to confined spaces. When I hear, "We don’t need on-air practice because we don't allow IDLH entries at our facility." Well, neither did these guys...


Fatal Activation of CO2 Fire Protection System in Confined Space

 


Sheffield Forgemasters was ordered to pay heavy fines and costs for safety failings that led to an employee dying of carbon dioxide poisoning after the cellar he was working in filled with the deadly gas. A worker was found unconscious at the South Yorkshire foundry after a confined underground area swiftly flooded with the fire-extinguishing mist. Four of his co-workers desperately tried to reach him but were themselves almost overcome by the fast-acting gas. The worker, who had three grown-up sons, was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital after the incident at the firm’s plant on 30 May 2008.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and prosecuted the company for serious safety failings. On December 19th 2013 Sheffield Crown Court heard that on the morning of the incident, the worker had carried out part of the cable cutting task in an electrical drawpit and then went to carry out the rest of the job in the switchroom cellar, which was only accessible by lifting a manhole cover and dropping down a ladder. Once underground at the electrical drawpit, the worker used a petrol-driven saw to cut through redundant 33,000 volt cables. At some point, he moved from there to the nearby switchroom cellar with the saw.

Later that morning, colleagues heard the carbon dioxide (CO2) warning alarms sounding from the cellar. A supervisor and other workmates rushed to help, with several of them trying to get down the ladder from the manhole to rescue the worker from the cellar’s confines. However, all attempts were defeated as each worker struggled to breathe and remain conscious when exposed to the debilitating concentrated carbon dioxide. The victim had to be brought to the surface later using slings.

HSE found that use of the petrol-driven saw in the switchroom cellar had likely activated a smoke sensor and prompted the release of the carbon dioxide from the fire extinguishing system.

The court was told Sheffield Forgemasters had failed to provide any rescue equipment for either the cellar or the drawpit. Other issues identified included a lack of a risk assessment by the firm for the cable cutting task and failing to provide a safe system of work in either underground location. In addition, there was no secure way to isolate the carbon dioxide fire system while work was going on in the cellar.

After the hearing, a HSE Inspector said: “This was a very upsetting incident that resulted in the needless death of this employee. It could have been an even worse tragedy as it was pure chance that another four workers who entered the cellar in a desperate bid to save their colleague did not also perish.” 

“Exposure to between 10-15% of CO2 for more than a minute causes drowsiness and unconsciousness. Exposure to 17-30% is fatal in less than one minute. Carbon dioxide is poisonous even if there is an otherwise sufficient supply of oxygen. 

“The risks associated with confined spaces are well known in industry and there is an entire set of regulations dealing with controlling the risks associated with them. Multiple fatalities do occur when one person gets into difficulty in such a space and then the rescuers are similarly overcome.”

“Sheffield Forgemasters had given no thought to the risks associated with the task being undertaken, nor had they provided emergency rescue equipment. This case shows how important it is for companies to effectively risk assess work activities; looking at how the work will be carried out and in what circumstances.” 

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Roco QUICK DRILL #4 - Selecting the Proper Knot and Tying Correctly

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Being able to tie a knot in the classroom with a rope short vs. selecting the proper knot and tying it correctly in the field during an emergency requires experience. With a little imagination, you can provide your team members numerous scenarios to practice in just a short period of time while they are still within a controlled environment. This practice will help them to gain more experience that should pay off in the long run if needed during a real life emergency.

1.  Identify the knots your team uses, and where they are used in various systems.

2.  Lay out a series of applications where team members would need to tie a knot. Decide in advance what knots are acceptable in these applications since many times more than one knot may get the job done.

3.  Once you have established the acceptable knots, lay out a gauntlet of knot tying stations.

4.  Each team member will go through each station... first, deciding which knot to use, and then tying it as it would be used in the application (examples: end knot in a lower line, vertical bridle knot, lashing a backboard, adjustable anchor, self-equalizing anchor, etc.)

The goal is to have team members choose an appropriate knot, tie it correctly, and apply it properly based on the rescue system presented. Two examples for knot stations are: (1) Backboard lashing - have the lashing complete except for the knot at the end; and (2) Mainline rigged except for the knot attaching it to the anchor.

CHECK OUT OUR RESCUE KNOT VIDEO SERIES!

Download the Rescue Knots PDF
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OSHA Emergency Response Meeting in Washington, DC

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Reported by Jim Breen, Roco Rescue Director of Operations

On July 30 and 31, OSHA held an Emergency Response and Preparedness Stakeholders meeting in Washington, DC for the purpose of discussing the merits and potential content of an emergency response and preparedness standard.

Meeting participants were from a broad range of both public and private industry experts to include two Roco representatives, Jim Breen, Director of Operations, and Dennis O’Connell, Director of Training. Also participating were representatives from NFPA, IAFF, IAFC, USFA, Louisiana Fire Chiefs Association, Phillips 66, BASF Corporation, Chevron Pipeline Company, Chicago Fire Department, and the American Red Cross to name a few.


The discussion allowed participants to highlight their experiences, voice concerns, and provide input to OSHA administrators who are tasked to make a need and content recommendations to OSHA's senior leadership.

The meeting consisted of four main topics:

1.  Which phases of an emergency incident should be included in a standard?

2.  Should the standard be inclusive of all incident types or should it be focused on those types of incidents that have resulted in a line-of-duty deaths (LODDs)?

3.  What content should be included in the standard?

4.  How can OSHA construct a standard that is practical, relevant, and flexible enough to cover all organizations, regardless of size and complexity?

OSHA was particularly mindful of having participants identifying issues that would impede the practical application of an emergency response and preparedness standard. OSHA administrators were very receptive of the views of the participants and stressed that they were not interested in writing a tactical or tactics standard. Although OSHA did not elaborate on any specific course of direction, it is our impression and hope that OSHA will begin drafting an emergency response and preparedness standard that is performance based, with a strong strategic focus, that emphasizes a recognized incident management system, outlines preparation activities inclusive of pre-incident planning, and is structured around the basic functions of command that will apply to all emergency response organizations that are subject to OSHA oversight.  

Emergency response is one of the most hazardous occupations in America. Emergency responders include firefighters, emergency medical service personnel, hazardous material employees, and technical rescue specialists. Also, law enforcement officers usually are considered emergency responders because they often assist in emergency response incidents.
Source: OSHA.gov and NFPA/FEMA 2012 Reports on Firefighter Fatalities

Background Information from OSHA.gov:

OSHA notes that there are no standards issued by the Agency that specifically address occupational hazards uniquely related to law enforcement activities. Many emergency responders have cross training in these specialties, and may serve in multiple roles depending upon the type of emergency incident involved. Skilled support employees are not emergency responders, but nonetheless have specialized training that can be important to the safe and successful resolution of an emergency incident.
 
OSHA issued a Request for Information in September 2007 that solicited comments from the public to evaluate what action, if any, the Agency should take to further address emergency response and preparedness. Recent events, such as the 2013 tragedy in West, Texas, that killed several emergency responders, and an analysis of information provided make it clear that emergency responder health and safety continues to be an area of ongoing concern. For this reason, OSHA conducted the stakeholder meetings to gather additional information.

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