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Katrina’s Bittersweet Reminder

Friday, June 03, 2011

Residents, family members and friends of the Gulf coast, particularly Louisiana and Mississippi, know the devastation Katrina left in her wake. They can vividly remember the pictures of stranded New Orleaneans on rooftops, floating on scrap metal and wood, houses completely submerged or demolished and looting occurring merely as a means for survival.

What people may not know is that if it weren’t for the highly qualified rescue teams that rushed in to save stranded people, the loss of life would have been substantially worse.


In his recently published book, “Lost in Katrina,” author Mikel Shafer tells us that the first bona fide rescue team to arrive in St. Bernard Parish (one of the hardest hit areas) was a Canadian Task Force from Vancouver, British Columbia. Tim Armstrong, Task Force Leader for Vancouver Urban Search and Rescue (as well as a long time Roco Chief Instructor and head of Roco Rescue of Canada, Inc.) received a call from the head of B.C.’s emergency preparedness office about trying to help Louisiana hurricane victims.

Many of the Canadian task force members were Roco-trained and some were even familiar with South Louisiana since Roco’s corporateoffice is located in Baton Rouge (just 50 miles west of the disaster zone). So the folks in Baton Rouge immediately got in touch with Governor Kathleen Blanco’s office to work out logistics for the USAR team.

The trek from the great white north to the swampy bayous of St. Bernard started Tuesday, but the rescue efforts lasted weeks. Tim Armstrong said that he and the others from BC became known as the “Mounties” in the post-Katrina rescue community. Nicknames like this provided a bit of comic relief, well-earned in the chaos of a wind and water ravaged city. With all that had happened, having the “Mounties” in town fit right in. To this day, the residents of St. Bernard Parish remain very grateful to the Canadian USAR team, who aided them in their darkest hour.

As hurricane season 2011 begins this month, we look back with a sense of gratitude to all first responders and rescue pros who never hesitated to respond. Of course, we hope we never need them, but if we do, we know they’ll be there to pull us out of crisis and into recovery. Even if it means traveling nearly 3,000 miles.

2011 hurricane season is expected to be well above average.

NOAA is predicting 12-18 tropical cyclones, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-6 major hurricanes of Category-3 strength or higher (111 mph or higher). They are also predicting the overall season to be 105-200% of average according to the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index (a method used to account for the intensity and duration of named storms and hurricanes).

Three important ingredients have combined to produce this year’s active hurricane  forecast.

Water temperatures in the Atlantic are above normal. Warm water is the fuel for tropical cyclones.Reduced wind shear over the Atlantic Ocean is expected to persist through much of the hurricane season. Less wind shear aids tropical cyclone development by ensuring the storms are not torn apart by winds aloft, and is critical to a storm’s long-term survival. We are currently in a multi-decade cycle of above average activity that began in 1995.

The good news? NOAA forecast does not consider landfall. We could have an extremely active hurricane season where most of the activity stays over water and has little impact on land. However, it only takes one land-falling hurricane to cause a disaster. Our best advice?

BE PREPARED!
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River level at the USS Kidd in Baton Rouge

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

For those Roco students who have trained with us onboard the USS Kidd, these pictures will give you a prospective of how high the mighty Mississippi River is right now in Baton Rouge. These photos show the “extremes” of the river with the lower level being from years past. Thankfully, we’ve had no flooding in our immediate area. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by the flooding and severe weather throughout the nation.

  
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Toddler Killed in Arkansas Building Collapse

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

As a first responder, it’s your worst nightmare… pulling up to a scene of a building collapse with a woman trapped under a beam screaming out for her child who’s buried in the rubble. That’s what happened yesterday in a small town in Arkansas that’s located about 55 miles west of Little Rock. With an incident like this – or the recent tornados with destruction everywhere in sight – would you know how to make the best use of the tools on your apparatus while waiting for USAR back-up?

Most rescues from collapsed structures are done within the first few hours by local responders – usually before USAR teams can respond. How long do you wait for USAR back-up, and what would you do in the meantime? You already know the structure is unstable, where do you start? Do you know how to protect rescue crews from further collapse as they enter these areas? Could your team handle the job that these responders had to deal with?

It’s a reminder to all of us of how important it is to be prepared for the unexpected. As an emergency responder or team leader, make sure you know how to protect yourself and your team in situations like this. Knowing the proper safety precautions along with simple, practical techniques using tools readily available can make a big difference in the first few minutes of a building collapse emergency.

Reported by Washington Post National

MORRILTON, Ark. — As residents and rescue workers arrived at the scene of a building collapse in central Arkansas, one woman trapped under a beam screamed out for her baby, and rescuers pulled a toddler’s body from the rubble of a century-old building.

Firefighters used everything from backhoes to their bare hands to sift through the wreckage of the two-story brick building hours after 2-year-old Alissa Jones’ body was found in the rubble and authorities had accounted for everyone else inside. At least six other people were injured when the building suddenly collapsed Monday.

Brian Matthews was at his auto detailing shop nearby when he heard the building crumble. When he looked up, “there was nothing but smoke,” he said. He was among those who rushed over and heard a woman screaming, “My baby is still inside.” He and other men pulled bricks and wood off the woman, exposing her injured legs as she continued to cry out.

Matthews said the girl showed no signs of life when would-be rescuers found her in the rubble of a bridal boutique and cosmetic store. Coroner Richard Neal later said the child was dead. The relationship between the woman and the toddler was not immediately clear.

Investigators, including the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, were trying to determine whether ongoing construction at the bridal shop was to blame. “We don’t know how or why they collapsed,” said Brandon Baker, the director of emergency management in Conway County. “We just know it was fast.”

One wall inside the building that remains standing is still a cause for concern, Mayor Stewart Nelson said Tuesday morning. “I’m standing here looking at it,” Nelson said. “It’s been creaking and groaning all night … We’re just waiting for that wall to collapse, too.” He said Monday that people had noticed similar noises at the building in recent days.

Of the 10 people inside the building, Baker said one died and four others were injured. Neal said one of the dead girl’s relatives was among the injured. A local hospital said six people were treated. Christy Hockaday, chief executive of St. Vincent Morrilton, said five of the six were released and the remaining person was in good condition.

Morrilton police resumed looking for any possible victims Tuesday, although they believed everyone was accounted for. Workers inserted tiny cameras into crevices between crumbled bricks to make sure no one else was trapped.

The collapsed building, on a corner in the heart of downtown, forced officials to shut down a portion of the town’s business district. Broken bricks and twisted metal slumped over the street corner where the building once stood. A broken clothes rack showed off a few colorful dresses, mostly untouched by the barrage of debris.

Down the street, Kylie Cole, 32, thought a train from the nearby depot collided with a car when she heard the building collapse. By the time she made it near the stores, all she could see was dust. “We heard people screaming and crying,” she said.
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Customized Rescue Training for Enterprise Products

Friday, May 13, 2011

These pictures are from the Enterprise Products (Port Allen, LA) class earlier this week at Roco Training Center. They scheduled a private “Refresher” course for the rescue team. It was a great class and an energetic group!

Here’s a comment from one of the students…“First time at Roco. Great facility & instructors. Learned new ways to perform activities. Just enough classroom time…most of the time needs to be spent in the field.”

Chief instructors for this class were Chris Hansen and Mike Adams. Thanks for hanging with Roco!

     
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Fast Track to Technical Rescue

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Orange (Texas) Fire Department recently completed Roco’s Fast-Track™ 120 course, which is arguably the ultimate rope rescue training experience. 

This 120-hour program works on techniques to produce a “well-rounded” rescuer who is capable of safely and effectively responding to a wide variety of confined space and rope rescue incidents.

Why is this type of training important for fire departments? OFD Deputy Chief, Jerald Ziller explains.

“A highly skilled technical rescue team is a tradition and has been deemed essential for the City of Orange Fire Department.  Our technical rescue team is partially funded by local industry which utilizes our team as the primary responders or as a secondary resource.  This collaborative effort has been in existence since the early 1990’s.  The residual effect of this training is a highly effective technical rescue team available to non-industrial situations that occur more frequently.  Most of the members of our team were trained by ROCO but we changed to utilize locally available training vendors for the past several years.  We realized that changing the basic foundation of our training affected the final performance of our teams training evolutions and possibly actual response capability.  We decided to return to ROCO for our basic training utilizing a ROCO instructor at our training facility for private training.  We feel the cost of the training as compared to the other vendors we have utilized recently is a greatest overall value.  The training was partially funded by a grant from the Texas Forest Service which added to the best overall value.”



The skills learned in Fast-Track™ 120 are put to work in many situations encountered by fire department personnel. “Technical rescue capability has been utilized by the Orange Fire Department on many occasions both in the industrial setting and during responses to other areas within the city.  The most frequent industrial responses are at shipbuilding or ship repair facilities.  We have utilized these skills for victims in a building collapse, construction sites, and manholes…

A relatively new service we offer to our industrial partners is confined space rescue stand-by.  Our pre-planning skills and industrial environment familiarization have been greatly improved by this service.  It gives our team members the opportunity to earn overtime wages with a neutral cost to the city because the industrial partner reimburses the city for the overtime charges,”  said Deputy Chief Jerald Ziller.

With a large concentration of industrial facilities within its response area, the Orange Fire Department has a unique responsibility to the community as well as the surrounding industries who play such a vital role in the local economy. In delivering the highest level of service, it is important for OFD Firefighters to be trained in both Confined Space and Rope Rescue techniques.

“A well-trained and equipped rescue team is essential to meet the needs of the community as well as local industry. An efficient and effective response only serves to further enhance the trust and confidence of all its citizens,” Roco Chief Instructor, Russell Kellar elaborated.

Fast-Track™ 120 is the ultimate rope rescue experience, preparing rescuers for an effective response to a wide variety of incidents. Perfect for municipal fire departments who need a good range of skills in confined space and rope rescue. OFD Fire Chief, David Frenzel, couldn’t agree more.

A special thanks to Roco Chief Instructor Russell Kellar for providing this information. Russ has been a Roco Instructor since 1993 and has taught Confined Space & Rope Rescue to many hundreds of students over the years at locations all across the nation. He is currently a Lieutenant with the Austin (TX) Fire Department and has served his community for the past 23 years. Russ is also a member of TX-Task Force 1 and has served on multiple deployments since joining the Task Force in 1997.

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