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Sometimes, Timing IS Everything.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Whether you’re a comedian telling jokes or a quarterback throwing a fade route to your favorite receiver, timing is key. And when you’re rescuing a worker who’s fallen into a fast-moving river, timing becomes an incredibly critical issue. In an instant, a Roco marine standby boat and rescue team can mean the difference in life or death for a fallen worker. What’s more, OSHA requires prompt retrieval during construction projects over or near water, and that’s just what Roco teams can provide.  

Roco Rescue Marine Standby Rescue-2

As part of Roco Rescue’s CSRT Services Division, Roco marine standby crews spend hundreds of hours each year on the waterways of the Baton Rouge-New Orleans industrial corridor, ensuring the safety of those working on structures above the water. According to Brad Duplessis, CSRT Director for Roco, “By far, the majority of our marine standby work is on the Mississippi River near a dock or facility under construction, but our teams are mobile and can work most anywhere in the U.S. In fact, we recently quoted a project on the Ohio River.”

Many companies performing construction work over or near waterways may not realize that a boat or skiff in the water for rescue is actually an OSHA requirement. OSHA 1926.106(d) states, “At least one lifesaving skiff shall be immediately available at locations where employees are working over or adjacent to water.” In fact, according to one OSHA letter of interpretation (LOI 6/13/90), the retrieval of an employee from the water is required no more than three to four minutes from the time they entered the water. Depending upon hazards present, rescue could be required even sooner. Another OSHA LOI (12/5/03) states, “As a skiff supplies a backup to potential failures of fall protection devices, the use of fall protection systems is not a substitute for the skiff.”

Simple Premise. Complicated Process. 

The concept is simple. Roco Rescue places a boat on-site to monitor projects where work is being performed over water. The Roco team, consisting of a boat operator and a lead rescuer, is there to closely monitor the site and immediately retrieve anyone that falls in the water. If the worker falls and is hanging from scaffolding or dangling from the side of a structure, it is the duty of the site rescue team to assist. But the minute a worker falls into the water, Roco Rescue’s marine standby team springs into action – and that’s when the process becomes both dangerous and complicated.

“Our eyes are constantly on the water,” explained Devin Payne, Roco CSRT Logistics Manager, who also works marine rescue standby.

“The minute a worker falls in, our two-person team goes to work striving to get that person out of the water as quickly as possible. One team member maneuvers the boat and the other uses equipment like life rings, ropes, grab poles or a davit arm, which is a specialized winch.”

“There are a number of factors at play, plus the fact that the person needing rescue may be injured or unconscious,” said Denver Payne, Roco CSRT Regional Manager (and twin brother of Devin).

“Most people don’t realize the dangers of river water, the intricacies that go into rescue or the potential hazards that stand in our way.”

Current: River water on the Mississippi generally moves at a rate of approximately 30 knots, which is just under 30 miles per hour. Rivers at flood stage can move even faster. At this rate, an individual that falls in can be swept away ending up hundreds of feet from the water entry point in a matter of seconds. For this reason, Roco Rescue boats observe closely from just downstream, ready to pull workers from the water as quickly as possible.

Temperature: Many would assume that river water, especially during southern summers, hovers around the 80-degree mark. However, in actuality, the average temperature of river water is 64-70 degrees, which can lead to the rapid onset of hypothermia. The Mississippi River averages 58 degrees during the spring and early summer due to the snowmelt coming down from the north. At this temperature, hypothermia can set in at an even faster rate.

Debris: Rivers have an unbelievable amount of debris such as tree limbs, logs, trash and more, much of which may not be visible from the surface. A worker may fall on a piece of debris or have debris strike him moving 30 mph, which can render him unresponsive during a rescue.

Visibility: Underwater visibility in a river is zero. If someone falls in without a personal floatation device, he could go under immediately making the rescue even more challenging.  

Boat Traffic: The river is shared by a number of additional boats and barges of varying sizes. Maneuvering the Roco boat between traffic can also be challenging. In addition, a person being swept away at 30 mph who is slammed into the side of a parked barge or a moving boat can experience great bodily harm.

Roco Rescue Marine Standby Rescuers-1


Special Equipment. Specially Trained Personnel.

Although the OSHA standard does not identify specific training for the rescue boat personnel, all Roco marine standby personnel are First Responder/CPR/First Aid trained, certified EMR or higher, and most are EMTs. Each member has passed a Boater’s Education Course along with specialized Roco Rescue training developed in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard and EBR Sheriff’s Department. Roco boats are fully equipped with first aid kits, AEDs and oxygen for prompt emergency care. These twin-engine crafts are safer and float lower in the water, making rescue access easier. Each boat is equipped with everything needed for rescue including a davit arm strong enough to lift 400 pounds. Our specialized navigation system allows for work during periods of low visibility as well.

We remind all companies who have personnel performing construction activities over or near the water, please make sure you are OSHA compliant and have a boat onsite to provide timely rescue. For additional safety and to ensure the highest level of service, rely on Roco Rescue. For more information on our marine rescue standby services, please contact us via phone at 800-647-7626 or email us at info@RocoRescue.com.

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Roco Talks with Fire Chief about Low-Angle Rescue

Saturday, May 8, 2021

During a recent snowstorm, the Woodbury Fire Department responded to an initial call of a car down an embankment. However, upon arrival, things became quite a bit more complicated. Department personnel were faced with a situation that pushed their training limits, and also created some valuable lessons learned.

Fire Chief Burke and Lt. Kauer (Roco Chief Instructor) discuss some takeaways from this rescue event…

What were your thoughts initially when responding to the scene of this accident?

Chief Burke: We initially received a report of a vehicle that had gone over a guardrail and slid down an embankment. We were unsure of the distance the car had traveled off the roadway or the slope of the embankment. Our priority when we arrived would be getting to the vehicle and assessing the conditions of the occupants.

Lt. Kauer: There was significant snowfall occurring, road conditions were pretty bad at the time. Getting to the occupants to provide treatment and protection from the elements was really all we had to go on with the information we had.

What did you find when you arrived on scene and performed your initial assessment?

Chief Burke: When we arrived on scene, we could not locate the vehicle initially. We could hear a horn going off in the distance, so we knew we were in the right location. With the assistance of the police department, members on scene were able to locate the vehicle after a brief search of the area. The vehicle, a standard passenger car, had traveled approximately 60 feet down the embankment and rolled onto its roof partially submerged in a creek.152401001_3857615917638888_2496111312438141438_n

Lt. Kauer: Chief Burke was already on scene when I arrived and had made his way down to the vehicle to begin assessing the situation. I remained topside to direct incoming personnel and provide any support needed below.

Can you describe what developed as you assessed the scene further?

Chief Burke: The police officers and I started making our way closer to the vehicle, there was approximately 16-18 inches of snow that had accumulated on the slope impeding our travel. When we got to the vehicle’s location, we found there was a 6–8-foot sheer rock face at the bottom of the slope. The two police officers slid down the face to the vehicle, I remained at the top of the face and started relaying information to Lt. Kauer and advised him that technical rescue would be needed to get the occupants topside.

Lt. Kauer: When the Chief contacted me over the radio and advised technical rescue would be required, I started to assess the surrounding area and planning where a safe work zone could be established and identifying any hazards that could complicate our rescue efforts. One of the biggest concerns I had was the amount of manpower that would be needed, and determining how many department personnel would be responding. Being a volunteer department, and given the time of day the incident occurred, it was not a guarantee that we would have sufficient manpower available to execute the rescue in a timely manner. I was hesitant to ask the Chief to request assistance from surrounding departments and deplete their manpower unnecessarily; they face the same issues we do as volunteers. Knowing that rescue efforts would require the use of technical rescue skills, I was also working to set up the rope systems that would be necessary for getting the patient to the roadway.

What strategy was used to successfully complete the rescue? What developed during the process?

Chief Burke: PD made initial contact with the single occupant in the vehicle, and I remained on top of the rock face to coordinate operation with personnel at the top of the slope. We were fortunate that the patient did not appear to be severely entrapped or injured. The officers were able to breach the passenger door window and remove the occupant who had suffered bruising and several lacerations. The patient was initially non-ambulatory but was able to gain mobility as the assessment continued. We still had two significant obstacles in front of us, the 60-foot snow-covered slope and the 8-foot sheer rock face which would have to be traversed during the rescue. I contacted Lt. Kauer and advised of developments, I called for a stokes basket to package and transport the patient up the slope while the team located on top of the slope continued to prepare for the rescue.


Lt. Kauer: When the Chief updated me on the situation below, I started to formulate a more definitive rescue plan. Our manpower levels on scene were sufficient, which was a major relief. However, our department does not have a dedicated technical rescue team. The arriving personnel were not trained in technical rope rescue and would be limited in the skills they could provide. Being the only rescue technician on scene, I started to give our personnel basic tasks to assist in setting up the rope system we would utilize when bringing the patient up the slope. Being that we were on a roadway, we would need to use the apparatus as our anchoring point. Having personnel inexperienced in rope rescue on scene meant that on-the-fly training would be necessary to successfully complete the rescue in a timely manner. The training covered basic anchoring and rigging principles, construction of the rope system that we would be using for the haul, and team positions once we were ready to initiate the retrieval.

Once the system was in place, and personnel were confident in their assignments, we sent personnel to assist with transporting the patient up the slope.

Chief Burke: I continued to work with PD in developing a plan to bring the patient up the sheer face to the base of the slope. Even though the face was only 8 feet, it was a very steep ascent. Given the conditions, that would make traversing it difficult – even with the assistance of a rope system. This would require us to bring not only the patient, but also the two police officers up the face as well. This would add significant time to the rescue and delay getting the patient up to the road surface. Thankfully, we were able to locate an area about 15 feet downstream that had a significantly flatter slope. The now ambulatory patient was able to move to the bottom of the slope with the assistance of PD. Once the patient had made it to this point, I instructed our members who had arrived with the stokes basket to start packaging the patient and prepare for travel up the slope.

Lt. Kauer: Once the patient was secured, and our personnel were in position, we utilized our hauling system to assist in moving the patient up the slope. Due to the hazardous conditions created by inclement weather, the system not only provided assistance in bringing the patient to the road surface, but it also provided the rescue team members a means of safety as they maneuvered the difficult terrain. 153149510_3857616194305527_3328504075929478694_nContinuous communication was critical in completing the rescue. We were able to get the patient to the top of the slope and transferred to medical personnel for transport.

What unexpected challenges did you face during the rescue?

Chief Burke: For me, the combination of poor weather conditions, snow already built up on the slope, and a sheer face of rock creating an obstacle really compounded the situation. Had we not been able to locate an area with a flatter face, it would have increased the difficulty of the rescue exponentially.

Lt. Kauer: Deteriorating weather conditions during the operation really created some problems. Also, we were operating on an active roadway during the initial stages of the rescue. With road conditions as they were, there was a major safety concern. Until PD was able to get the roadway shut down, we were working with an abundance of caution. Not being able to fully focus on the rescue tasks due to safety concerns can impact your time on scene significantly.

What are some lessons learned your department took away from the rescue?

Chief Burke: We were fortunate to have Lt. Kauer, who is a Roco Chief Instructor, on scene to direct rescue operations at the top of the slope. It would have been very beneficial to have additional resources trained in rope rescue on an initial alarm automatic response. It would have allowed us to have a fully trained rescue team available in a more timely manner. If Lt. Kauer had not been on scene, our own fire personnel would not have been able to perform the rescue as effectively and efficiently as we did.

Lt. Kauer: Know your district and any areas that can present scenarios that are out of the ordinary. Preplan any areas you identify and know how to be prepared for them. Have your team members familiar with basic anchoring and mechanical advantage principles. These types of low-angle rescues do not require a vast amount of skill or equipment to be successful. Practice the basics and make sure your team members are proficient in these skills.

What should other departments take into consideration to ensure they are prepared for these types of events?

Chief Burke: Evaluate your capabilities as a department, look at all the possible scenarios where you may be needed and be honest with yourself. You must ask, “are we able to do what is required if the time comes” In our case, it would be extremely difficult to have multiple members trained as rope rescue technicians. Having mutual aid on auto-response with departments who have these resources readily available is essential.

Lt. Kauer: Never think that these things will not happen in your district. Departments are continuously called to perform outside of standard fire-related duties. Not everyone has to be a technician when you look at rope rescue or other technical disciplines needed for response. Train with your department on the basics, have department members work on simple core skills and develop a good base for technical rescue.

Rescuing from the Bullpen

Friday, April 9, 2021

It is FINALLY that time of year. The sight of freshly mown Kentucky Blue Grass, the smell of $9.00 hot dogs, the taste of $13.00 draft beer. It is that magical moment when America’s pastime – silence football apologist – will once again take its rightful spot at the top of all things important in the sports world.

The sport of baseball has a deep-rooted history and possesses within itself many variables that can affect the outcome of the game. However, there is one component of the game that can be the most decisive reason that a game is won or lost. Let me introduce you to the bullpen pitcher.

Bullpen Pitcher Rescues the Game

It is odd that the person who will be placed in this decisive role does not have the luxury of getting in a rhythm and working out the nervous feelings and rusty movements as the game develops. No, unlike the rest of the players who have built up to a critical moment and are absorbed in the action, the bullpen pitcher must come in cold. Placed in control of a situation that someone else created, he is expected to perform at the highest level to save his team from an undesirable outcome. 

Does this sound familiar to you? Welcome to the lives of every rescuer.

Rescue personnel do not have the luxury of scheduling when they will be called on to perform in very high-stress situations that demand the maximum from their skills to succeed.

What compounds the situation further is the fact that the outcome resulting from the rescuer’s performance is not winning or losing a game, but the lives of individuals. The ability of a rescuer to be inserted in a situation with less than desirable conditions and perform their skills in ways that achieve the desired results requires a unique person and a very high level of training.

Both of these crafts start out the same.

First, it takes an exceptional person to fill these roles and accept the responsibility, and pressure, that each bring.

Both begin by learning all the skills and knowledge they can and develop their abilities through repetition and further understanding of their trade until they are ready to perform. Armed, one literally and one figuratively, with everything they need to be successful, they set out down their chosen path to achieve success and become a notable ally of good. The problem that they both soon recognize is that most of their time is spent waiting, wanting to use the skills that they have spent time perfecting, but stuck wondering when they would get their chance. For rescuers, not having to respond to an incident that requires the use of their skills is a good thing.

A bullpen pitcher may be called in to stop the “bleeding” when the game is on the line. But the bleeding that happens when a rescuer is called involves a human life. 

People who have a calling for these roles did not dedicate their time and effort just to have a good seat in front of the action that is occurring. They want to be in the moment as it is happening, to contribute to gaining the best outcome possible. Neither of these roles have the opportunity to continuously use their skills in the instance they were designed for. But when called upon to execute these skills in a time of need, they must be able to perform with precise talents and in a proficient fashion. Lack of performance from one may get you sent down to the minors, or just out of a job period. The other, however, potentially faces a far worse reality.

Rescuers do not have the benefit of having an “off day” when lives are at stake.

You can’t just go to the bullpen for a new reliever to take your place, you are the last line of defense between someone’s life and serious, sometimes tragic, results.

If you have been in the rescue business long enough for the newness to have worn off your initial training, you know that the knowledge and skills it takes to be a part of a successful rescue team are highly perishable.

Rescue knowledge and skill must be continuously practiced and studied in order to be at the very top of your game.

Just as a reliever who is expected to paint the corners and produce double-play balls, the rescuer must dedicate themselves to working on their required craft to maintain, and improve, their ability to perform. 

A successful bullpen pitcher is a necessity for success, but they are a singular component of the team. To perform at the highest level, the bullpen pitcher needs many components. A good batterymate and solid defense are imperative. A good manager and scouting report give the reliever the direction and information they need to execute. Again, the similarity between the two crafts shows here. A rescuer is an essential component of a successful rescue team. However, a dedicated rescuer who works to be at the top of their rescue skills still must rely on others for success.


A team of proficient rescuers who also stay on top of their skills provide the needed defense. A good team leader calling the right pitch serves as the rescuers’ batterymate. Preplanning not only a potential space where rescue may be performed, but all of the variables that may cause unforeseen hazards or impede the rescue efforts serves as a rescuer’s scouting report. A good emergency manager is another critical piece. A team cannot be successful without the funds and time to become proficient. The emergency manager is the piece that fights for the ability to provide the team the opportunity to practice their craft. Annual rescue training is great for “demonstrating and documenting” individual skills proficiency as required in OSHA 1910.146 PRCS, but how confident are you in your skills when you perform them once a year? Continuous training is crucial for the success of any rescue team. 

Both trades will face various situations throughout their career that produce another factor that can impact the outcome of a situation, it is called stress. Lack of preparedness and performance will drastically impact this factor and will assuredly make a bad situation worse. Coming in with 2 outs and nobody on in the 7th to protect a lead will create significantly less stress than coming in with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th no outs with a 1 run lead. The same applies to a rescuer responding to a worker with a sprained ankle who can’t climb a ladder in a non-hazardous environment. This situation will produce minimal stress for a rescue team that is not quite up to par with their skills and preparedness. 

However, the same team attempting to rescue three individuals who are unconscious in a confined space with a hazardous atmosphere will experience an exponentially increased amount of stress, which will certainly play a part in the outcome. Both of these situations require skills to be performed, but a team that is not capable in their skills and rescue decision-making process can potentially cause more harm than good for the unfortunate souls needing rescuers to save them from a perilous situation.

The bottom line is this, rescue teams must train often and with a purpose to ensure that they are ready at a moment’s notice, prepared to face the direst of situations, and capable of achieving the best possible outcome. This includes individual rescuers as well as the team working as a unit. No one wants to bear the scars of a rescue gone wrong. Rescuers want to be the ones that made the difference and let someone get home to their family safely.

So, when the skipper comes out in the 9th and calls for the lefty out of the pen, what rescue team will you be? One that is a pitch away from being sent down to the minors or worse sent packing because of their performance? Or the ace reliever who puts the team on his shoulders in game 7 to bring home the Commissioner’s Trophy? Play Ball!

3 Practice Tips from Roco Rescue

Check out our Quick Drills for some in-house practice, or join us for one of our Compliance Rescue Refreshers.

Low-Angle Rope Rescue

Friday, March 26, 2021

During a recent snow storm in Highland Mills, New York, the Woodbury Fire Department performed a rope rescue for a driver whose car flipped over the guardrail. The wreck occurred on Route 293, with the car tumbling down a 50 to 60 foot embankment and landing upside down in a stream.

Woodbury Fire Department Rope RescueIncredibly the motorist sustained only minor injuries, and rescuers used low-angle rescue techniques.

Trench Deaths = Manslaughter?

Monday, March 8, 2021

In a grim reminder about the dangers of trench and excavation work, this article from Safety+Health Magazine also serves as a warning to employers. “The court’s decision sends a message to business owners that they can be held criminally accountable and face felony charges if they knowingly fail to protect their workers.”

The owner of Alki Construction LLC has been charged with second-degree manslaughter after an employee was buried while replacing a residential sewer pipe in a trench that had inadequate shoring and was missing a ladder.

Remember to ensure that you have a properly trained Trench Competent Person on site, and check out OSHA's Trenching and Excavation Safety Fact Sheet as a reminder when scheduling trench work.


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