Pat Furr Retires: A Farewell Thank You to our Rescue Community

Monday, August 17, 2020

Well folks, after over forty years of working full time in the technical rescue field – twenty plus years as an Air Force PJ, and almost another twenty with Roco Rescue – I am hanging up my rescue harness for good.  It is not that it is worn out, and in fact it is in pretty good shape, as it hasn’t seen much action in the last few years. It is more that I want to get out and play full time before I am totally worn out.  So I am retiring. 

I want to take this opportunity to say “Thank You” to all of the folks that I have had the honor to work alongside, learn from, teach, and collaborate with on various projects.  I can say without any hesitation, and with deep humility, that I am a different and much better person than I was forty one years ago.  

Pat-Furr-1024x768That is largely due to the folks that I have been surrounded with in that time.  They nudged me, and at times that nudge was pretty solid, in the right direction. Because of the nature of rescuers in general, some of your best human qualities were bound to rub off on me.  And for that, I thank you. 

I don’t want to single out any individuals for particular thanks, because this article would go on forever if I started down that road.  But I do want to say thank you to my supervisors, managers, and company leaders that I have been blessed to have guide, mentor, and support me.  This holds true for my time in the Air Force as well as with Roco.  My Non-Commissioned Officers in Charge (NCOICs) during my time as a PJ were the best I could have hoped for.  And the same holds true for the President, VP, and other managers at Roco.  They each had, and have their own unique, and to me, highly desirable styles of leadership.  They all impressed upon me the value of setting clear and meaningful expectations, leading from the front by putting in the work and effort to demonstrate their own self accountability, but most importantly, they have all been very fair.  

To my teammates as a PJ, as a Roco CSRT Member, and Instructor:  I have been surrounded by a herd of type A go getters for forty years, and to say that was never a challenge, would be a flat out lie.  But I have enjoyed that challenge as it kept me on my toes and honest.  There was never any room for BS or taking shortcuts, because I knew I would be called out on it.  That really helps one develop good habits and to avoid the bad ones.   I have learned so much from my teammates that it astounds me to just stop and think of all the ideas and efforts to make things better that we have worked on together. 

I also want to thank the support staff that have put in so much time, effort, and dedication that goes on behind the scenes.  Without the support of our training coordinators, equipment managers, payroll, schedulers, facility managers, operations mangers, sales, general admin, human resources, and so many others, we couldn’t possibly do what we do. 

Finally, I want to thank our customers, both our students and our CSRT clients.  At Roco Rescue we try to provide the best courses of instruction, as well as the most professional CSRT services we can.  This includes listening to what our customers have to say, both good and sometimes not so much.  I can’t tell you how much our services have improved over the years based on feedback from our customers.  We have had so many characters as customers that my catalog of funny stories is volumes deep.   For that alone, this has been a very rewarding career. 

So as I rappel off into the sunset, I bid you farewell, be safe, and remember that the path you have chosen is a noble and very rewarding one.  Walk down that path with pride, dedication, and with the knowledge that your efforts in being the best rescuer you can be, will ultimately give those that need you in an emergency, that chance to live out their own dreams.   

Until we meet again, you can find me sailing on Lake Champlain, mountain biking some gnar in New England, exploring with my lovely wife and our dog, gathering mushrooms or seeking the perfect sunset and doing some community volunteerism. 

In other words, I ain’t dead yet. 

Pat Furr

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Trench Safety Stand Down Resources

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

June is Trench Safety Month and June 15-19 is Trench Safety Stand Down week. We are partnering with NUCA (National Utility Contractors Association) to encourage everyone who does trenching or excavation as part of their work to participate in the Stand Down by holding a toolbox talk on trench safety. Here's how you can prepare for your stand down. (Remember, participating in the stand down by talking about safety is more important than when you do it.) 

We're also making available a number of informational resources you can use as part of a safety talk or presentation. Our webinar with NUCA has lots of information about the trench competent person, as well as how you can help the rescue team should you need to call them.  Click below to get access to a recording of the webinar:

Access our Trench Talk webinar recording by completing the form here

We received some great questions from those who attended the webinar, and we didn't have time to address all of them within the hour. Below are the questions that we didn't get to discuss live, and the answers.

What is the maximum gap allowed between the dirt and backside of a trench box or sheet piling?

OSHA speaks to this issue in the standard and a Letter of Interpretation. From OSHA Standard 1926.652(g)(ii) requires that trench shields be installed “to restrict lateral or other hazardous movement.”

 This Letter of Interpretation states " although our standard does not set a maximum distance between a shield box and a trench face, an employer would be required to ensure that, in the event of a collapse of the face, the shield would not move laterally. "

If you are sitting in an excavator inside the excavation, does it still need to be sloped in accordance with the standard?

Yes, OSHA requires that all employees that are exposed to soil collapse shall be protected from potential cave-in. In a Letter of Interpretation, OSHA does speak directly to pile-driving equipment and operations and states that the excavation must be sloped/protected.

We recently had a vendor come out selling inflatable trench panels.  Anybody have experience with them, or an opinion on them?

We circulated this question among our trench rescue instructors, who are also active rescuers in municipal departments from New York to Idaho. We have not had first-hand experience with inflatable trench panels, either by demonstration or in actual use. Thank you for making us aware of this alternative equipment.

Is a Daily Excavation Safety Checklist required to be completed prior to work starting for the day?

The OSHA standard requires a daily inspection be completed prior to the start of work, after any rainstorm, dewatering activities, and after any hazard causing event.

If a trench box is installed, is it best to back fill around the box to prevent sudden failures of soil outside of the box from crashing into the box?  In other words, fill the void spaces / eliminate soil momentum?

OSHA speaks to this issue in the standard and a Letter of Interpretation. From OSHA Standard 652(g)(ii) requires that trench shields be installed “to restrict lateral or other hazardous movement.”

 The Letter of Interpretation states "although our standard does not set a maximum distance between a shield box and a trench face, an employer would be required to ensure that, in the event of a collapse of the face, the shield would not move laterally. "

Should excavations beyond 4 - 5 feet in depth be permit required confined spaces?

No. The OSHA Construction Industry Confined Space Standard Subpart AA 1926.1201(b)(1) states that the standard does not apply to construction work regulated by 1926 Subpart P—Excavations. However, an entity may choose to exceed OSHA’s minimum requirements and classify excavations/trenches as confined spaces. If an entity does apply the definition to a trench, then they are now required to follow all of the confined space requirements as stipulated in 1926.1200 Subpart AA.

More Resources


Toolbox talk English

Here's a great 1-pager designed for a toolbox talk:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toolbox talk Spanish

 

And here's the same 1-pager in Spanish:

 

 

 

 

This is a checklist you can use for planning and continuous monitoring of an open trench, and also a good topic of conversation to share with your team:

Daily Excavation Checklist 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions? Reach out to us. We're here to help.

Stay Safe,

The Roco Rescue Team

 

IMPORTANT: The information at RocoRescue.com is provided as a complimentary service. It is a general information resource and is not intended as legal advice. Because standards and regulations relating to this topic are typically performance based, and compliance with those standards and regulation is often dependent on the specific circumstances and conditions at hand, it is always important to carefully review all relevant standards and regulations, and to follow the proper protocols specific to your company or agency.

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2020 Rescue Challenge Postponed

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Roco Rescue Challenge 2020Due to the scheduling disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns, and travel restrictions, the annual Roco Rescue Challenge for 2020 is postponed until next year. The 2021 Rescue Challenge will be held October 20-21, 2021, at the Roco Training Center in Baton Rouge. Call us at (800) 647-7626 to register and book your team's spot, and check out details of past Challenge events to see what to expect.

Stay safe out there!

 

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What Makes a Great Technical Rescue Team?

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Technical rescue is definitely a team endeavor that requires each team member to understand and practice their individual knowledge and skills so as to contribute to the success of their team. You know I am going to say it at some point, so we may as well get it over with… there is no “I” in team. The best teams are the ones that work cohesively, where each team member can rely on their teammates to perform their tasks so that they can focus on their own tasks.

A technical rescue team preparing for training at the Roco Training Center

Some of the very best teams are made up of solid performers but don’t have one standout star. The 2004 Detroit Pistons were a great team, but they did not have a star player. They were a bunch of really good players that had a deep bench and played as a team no matter what. The success of that team was centered on everyone doing their job as best they could while supporting their teammates.

The Beatles didn’t have one celestial star, and no, just because his last name was close, Ringo was not the “Starr” of the show. What they had was a great mix of talent as songwriters and performers. And they logged a great deal of time playing together, which helped them develop phenomenal chemistry.

When an NBA team or a great musical act take the stage, we often forget about the “team” that supports them. The trainers, the nutritionists, the guy running the soundboard, or the lights, there are so many behind the scenes team members that we sometimes forget that without them, the performance would be nothing like what it is with that team support.

Role Players are Crucial

If you are just starting out your career as a technical rescue team member, or even if you have been at it for many years, it is important to remember that the success of the team is dependent on the work and cooperation of all team members. Of course there may be some “stars” on your team, the ones who have really built up their skills and knowledge and who seem to have an efficient and safe technique or strategy for just about any situation.

While these “stars” are very valuable, even they would struggle to find success without the role players on the team.  And there is nothing wrong and everything right with you learning and practicing your rescue skills to the point where you would be looked upon as a star. Just don’t let it go to your head. For most of us, we may not be rescue superstars, but we are integral to our team’s success. It is important to take pride in knowing that your individual performance and contributions will make the team successful.A technical rescue team working together on a mechanical advantage system

We teach our students to practice short size-up sessions before beginning a rescue scenario. This may be needed when confronted with a rescue where you have no rescue pre-plan prepared. If you have a seasoned superstar on your rescue team, it may be quicker and more efficient to allow that person to decide the rescue strategy and either make assignments or allow the team members to just assume the various positions based on what they can bring to the table.

Identifying Roles for Everyone on the Team

Some team members are obvious choices due to their physical stature. We really like the smaller rescuers as they make great “hole rats”. They can fit into and be comfortable in some pretty tight spaces, whereas the Clydesdales should hold off on volunteering to squeeze through that 18” portal. Most teams have someone that loves to rig anchors, or another that is great at loading, converting, and operating a modern friction control device for lowers and hauling. Some are just naturally great at operating a tended belay allowing just enough, but not too much slack.Two rescuers prepare rigging for technical rescue team training

And of course, others are naturally great at leading the team to success. My preference, if there are enough team members, is to have the Team Leader not touch any kit. They should keep their arms crossed or their hands in their pockets to help resist the temptation to start handling equipment or running a system. Once they start handling the gear, chances are they will focus on that specific task and not maintain their 360 degree situational awareness.

Using Scenario-Based Training to Build Team Chemistry

Roco Rescue training focuses on individual and team skills. We have found that once we have armed our students with the individual rescue skills, the students really gain an understanding of how those individual skills are blended together during scenario-based team training evolutions. By exposing the individual team members to the challenges of applying their individual skills in the congestion of a team event, and trying to do so in a timely manner, really adds an understanding as to why they need to have solid individual skills to contribute to the team.

We also see some great rescue teams come to our Roco Rescue Challenge. They perform some very challenging scenarios and tend to work very quietly once they have the plan and their assignments. It is almost as if they are communicating telepathically. Call it rescuer self-actualization. It is both impressive and a joy to watch. They know the value of working as a team and not as a group of individuals doing their own thing. They have that same chemistry that the 2004 Pistons and the Beatles had. They are indeed a team.

Your contributions are critical to the success of the team. Although that success may lead to high fives and a feeling of accomplishment during training, the most important thing to remember is your contributions to the team may very well result in lives saved. And it doesn’t get much better than that.  Roco Rescue instructor team arriving prepared for training

 

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Is Technical Rescue For You?

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Altruistic, team player, social, hard worker, strong of spirit, caring for others, adrenaline junkie, somewhat athletic, closet superhero… If these are traits you possess, then you should consider training to become a technical rescue specialist.

Certain professions and certain industries have very clear needs for specific technical rescue skills. If you are a firefighter, technical rescue skills will make you a better firefighter, and may also help advance your career. Industrial facilities often have their own in-house rescue team, assembled to meet the particular rescue scenarios that are more likely to arise at that facility. These teams are usually made up of “regular employees” who have day jobs as operators, etc., but who receive extra training (and extra pay) to be on the rescue team.Helicopter rescue operation

If you’re not in a profession or an industry where there is a need, you can still become part of a local rescue group for your town or county, in which case you’ll want to train in the specialty disciplines most needed for your community. No matter where you develop your technical rescue skills, if you’re cool under pressure and your skills are solid, you will be in demand.

An Energetic and Enthusiastic Community

Rescuers are passionate and enthusiastic about rescue work. Another way of saying it is: nobody is “meh” about rescue. Every single rescuer I’ve ever talked to lights up with a certain energy when they talk about their particular skills and experiences. It doesn’t matter if they are part of a local mountain rescue group, a member of an industrial confined space rescue team, or work on towers with an ability to rescue their co-workers… when the conversation turns to rescue, their energy kicks up a notch.

The energy comes from a sense of pride and fulfillment. Seldom is it boastful or insincere. Most every rescuer is in it for the right reasons, and that is to do what you can, use your training and work as a team to help someone who has gotten into trouble and needs rescue.Tower rescue training

The Ups and Downs of the Job

Having taken part in many dozens of rescues, I can attest to the feeling of contribution that comes from knowing that someone will live to enjoy the rest of their days due in large part to my actions as a rescuer. It’s a good feeling.

However, if you’re considering technical rescue, it’s important to know that not all rescue operations have good outcomes. Technical rescue situations can turn into recovery operations before you even have a chance to do anything. And sometimes bad outcomes occur despite a rescuer’s or a rescue team’s best efforts. This is one of the realities that you must consider, but knowing that you did your best and remembering that without your efforts, that individual would have had no chance whatsoever, will help you refocus on the reason you must keep trying.USAR team in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

Technical Rescue is a Broad Field with Many Disciplines

So, what rescue disciplines are we talking about? When most people hear “rescue” they tend to think ambulance crew, or maybe high angle rope rescue. However, there are many more disciplines that may have a need for rescue team members in your local area or your place of work. Here is a list of rescue disciplines taken out of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1006 standard for technical rescue personnel professional qualifications:


  • Tower Rescue
  • Rope Rescue
  • Structural Collapse Rescue
  • Confined Space Rescue
  • Vehicle Rescue
  • Animal Technical Rescue
  • Wilderness Search and Rescue
  • Trench Rescue
  • Machinery Rescue
  • Cave Rescue
  • Mine and Tunnel Rescue
  • Helicopter Rescue
  • Surface Water Rescue
  • Swiftwater Rescue
  • Dive Rescue
  • Ice Rescue
  • Surf Rescue
  • Watercraft Rescue
  • Floodwater Rescue

As you can see, there are many more rescue disciplines than the few that most people are aware of. If you see a specialty discipline from this list that you feel is something that you would be good at or that is in demand where you work, whether that’s industrial or municipal, I encourage you to get involved.Technical rescue training

Or, if there is a need in your local community, then you might contact your local search and rescue (SAR) team. This can be a great way to gain experience and build your skills. You may also want to research possibilities with your state’s FEMA or USAR team, which typically require advanced training and experience, but is good information to have if you’re setting your sights on eventually joining.

Common Characteristics of Technical Rescuers

Let’s look at some of the personality traits that I mentioned earlier and why they may indicate you are cut out for rescue.

  • Altruism: Having a selfless concern for the well-being of others is a very strong motivator for most all rescuers.
  • Team player: Taking pride in contributing to the team’s success and ultimately a successful rescue as a team, provides a shared gratification that seems to multiply within the dynamics of the team.
  • Social: Most of my best lifelong friends are rescuers. We tend to be a pretty happy and social bunch.
  • Hard Worker: Rescue requires effort. It is not a push button, blink your eyes and it is done sort of deal. It will require some study, at times uncomfortable physical effort, and the need to contribute as a support member.
  • Strong of Spirit: You will at times have to make decisions and accept responsibility for the outcome of those decisions. If you approach your training and operational responses with honesty and integrity, doing the best you can, that should give you pride in knowing that your promise to do your best is relied on by your team and your rescue subjects.
  • Adrenaline Junkie: OK, the reality is, most of the preparation, training for, and actual performance of technical rescue is not all that exciting. But there are plenty of moments that do provide a good deal of adrenaline producing moments.
  • Somewhat Athletic: Not all rescue activities are dynamic in terms of physicality, but most require some degree of fitness, agility, strength, and balance.
  • Closet Superhero: We like to keep this particular trait hush hush. I have dealt with some rescuers who did prance around as if they were wearing a mask and a cape, but for the most part we are a group of quiet professionals that internalize that feeling of being a superhero. But hey, I admit it, when things went really well on a rescue, at times I felt like Superman.

Answer the Call

We’ve just entered a new decade, which makes us take note of the passage of time and how we’re using ours. You’ve read this far because you’re curious about technical rescue work and wondering if it’s for you. Well, if you’re looking for a greater sense of purpose and you want to serve others, and if you want to be part of a dynamic and enthusiastic community, follow your gut instinct and go for it! You won’t regret it.

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