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Technical Rescue Incident Preparedness: Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Reported by James Breen, Special Projects Manager for Roco Rescue, Inc.

Whether you’re a relatively new or a well-established Technical Search and Rescue (TSAR) organization, following an established Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment process is a great way to ensure you’re prepared for the “Big One."

The “Big One” is that incident where you’re called upon to deliver on the organizational investment of having a TSAR capability. A great deal of organizational time, money, and effort is invested in developing, maintaining, and deploying a Rescue Team. Plant Administrators, Fire Chiefs, and elected officials (private board members or public officials) want to see a return on that investment when their rescue service is called into action to save a life.  

The purpose of this article is to assist the Rescue Team Leader (RTL) and aspiring RTL (because we should always be developing our replacement) in establishing a Rescue Team, developing a new TSAR capability, or ensuring an established Rescue Team is adequately prepared for the “Big One."

Firstly, if there is a potential for a TSAR incident to occur within your jurisdiction, NFPA 1670 requires the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to address a number of “General Requirements” found in Chapter 4. The review and completion of these requirements are usually a function of the Rescue Team Leader along with key management personnel who authorize, budget, schedule, and equip the Rescue Team.

The format of Chapter 4 is useful for all Rescue Teams, whether newly formed or long established. It is an excellent tool for ensuring some of the foundational aspects of preparedness and organizational structure are (or have been) properly established.  Most “senior rescuers” (not those on Medicare but those that have the respect, time, and experience that makes them leaders in technical rescue) will tell you that the TSAR incident potential, including their hazards and risks, change as industrial processes are updated, installed, or eliminated. 

Key to all emergency response success is planning and preparation. However, incident preparation should be driven by the types of emergency incidents that have a potential for occurring within a given jurisdiction. This is the starting point for determining rescue capabilities, SOP/SOG’s, staffing, training, and equipment. 

The Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment is one method for assessing incident potential. NFPA defines:

•  Hazard Identification - The process of identifying situations or conditions that have the potential to cause injury to people, damage to property, or damage to the environment. 

•  Risk Assessment - An assessment of the likelihood, vulnerability, and magnitude of incidents that could result from the exposure to hazards. 

This process identifies the possibility of conducting TSAR operations within a jurisdiction by evaluating environmental, physical, social, and cultural factors that influence the scope, frequency and magnitude of a potential TSAR incident. It also addresses the impact the incident has on the AHJ to respond and conduct operations while minimizing threats to rescuers (NPFA 1670, 4.2.1 and 4.2.2). The standard lists a number of scientific methodologies in its annex but in the spirit of keeping it, we’ll approach this process using a Preliminary Checklist. (See Sample Checklist.)

Once completed, the checklist may have entries that require further analysis, identify a need to develop or expand a capability, or require entering into an agreement with an external resource. 

This checklist is for day-to-day incident responses under predictable jurisdictional response conditions and should not be used for disaster scenarios where large scale regional and federal resources will be required to mitigate the incident. These scenarios should be addressed through Emergency Response Plans. 

Most fire departments and other emergency response organizations want to maintain a response capability that match potential incidents in order to be operationally effective, provide for rescuer safety, and have positive incident outcomes.  

A Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment is an excellent way to evaluate your organization’s preparedness level for technical rescue incidents based the potential for one to occur; it also aids in the development of specific capability. 

About the Author: James (Jim) Breen is Special Projects Manager for Roco Rescue where he handles a wide variety of projects and provides program support, while still engaging in instructional services. Jim previously served for over 23 years with the Albuquerque Fire Department and retired as the agency's Fire Chief in 2013. He previously had served as a Battalion Commander for the city’s busiest battalion, and has extensive experience in Incident Command and Heavy Rescue Operations. He is a former USAF Pararescueman and a Rescue Squad Manager and Task Force Leader with NMTF-1 where he was deployed to several national disasters.

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Roco QUICK DRILL #5 - Building Complete Rescue Systems

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Due to time restraints in refresher training, oftentimes individual team members may only get to build a portion of a rescue system – for example, setting up a mainline or performing patient packaging. In order to have maximum team efficiency, it is important to keep all team members proficient in all aspects of the rescue operation.

1. Lay out enough equipment to build a mainline and a safety line system and for a particular type of packaging. Describe which system is to be used and how the patient will be packaged (i.e. vertical stokes raise, or horizontal SKED lower with attendant).

2. Identify what will be used as anchors. If working in a classroom or apparatus floor, a chair leg could be designated as bombproof or substantial anchor depending on the rigging the team member is being asked to do. If you are in the field, use whatever anchors are available.

3. Assign a team member to construct or rig the entire system on their own, including packaging the patient.

This drill allows a Team Leader to identify potential weaknesses in individual performance skills, while improving the team member's understanding of how the systems work. The knowledge gained will also help in planning future training sessions to correct any deficiencies. For the individual team member, this drill will reinforce all aspects of putting systems together and identifying weak points or areas of confusion that need to be corrected.    

 

 

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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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