Your Physical Fitness As A Rescuer: Why It Matters

Wednesday, January 02, 2019
by Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator 

In January of last year, I wrote a piece called The Fit Rescuer & Why It's Important, and it was one of my most widely-read articles, so I thought I would tackle the topic again this year. The information in this article applies to all rescuers; whether you're a member of an emergency response team at your plant, a paramedic or a firefighter, you can benefit from learning more about fitness.

I’ve taught a lot of students and worked alongside many rescue professionals over the years. Each and every one wants to do the very best for the patients or victims they serve... Clearly, learning rescue skills and practicing them is a critical part of this, but so is maintaining a reasonable level of physical fitness. In fact, a standard for rescuer physical fitness is directly addressed in NFPA 1006, Section 4.2. So not only do we have an obligation due to our role as rescuers, but we also owe it to ourselves to be in good shape.
Your Physical Fitness As A Rescuer: Why It Matters If that’s not motivation enough, its January resolution time! That said, remember that this is a journey… you probably aren’t going to see radical changes right away, so don’t get discouraged. Take pride in every day you work toward your fitness goals, and if you fall off the horse and into a hot fudge sundae one weekend, don’t despair – just get back on track and stay with it!

Why Staying in Shape is Working for Me
I will be the first to admit that I go through periods (some of them extended) where I allow myself to get a tad soft. Well, okay, maybe more than just a tad soft. And when I do, I feel certain limitations that I know hinder my ability to do right by my rescue subjects. If I am winded and drenched in sweat after climbing a few flights of stairs, that is going to ultimately count against my rescue victims. And if I need to go in “on air” and my mask is fogged from perspiration, I will need to run a constant purge just to keep my mask clear – and that may deplete our air supply prematurely.

I remember all too well how heavy my gear and tripod felt during one of my “Jabba the Hutt” periods a few years back. It was discouraging! But after a few months of working out and eating well, I remember how great it felt to grab that same tripod and sling it up onto my shoulder as if it was filled with helium.

Physical Fitness as a Matter of Life and Death
I think we can all agree that physical fitness can enhance our performance as rescuers. But there are so many other benefits to improving our individual physical fitness, for instance:

reduction in soft tissue injuries like pulled muscles and ligament strains
• increased resistance to illnesses
• better mood and higher energy-level
reduced stress levels
• greater stamina and strength
• higher tolerance for heat and cold
• increased situational awareness and ability to formulate and understand rescue plans (this one is key!)

But there is so much more to the job performance and health benefits of working out, eating well, and staying in shape. Frankly, we can’t afford NOT to make our health a priority. A study from the First Responder Health and Safety Lab at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, affirmed: “Firefighters face many dangers, but the greatest risk is from underlying cardiovascular disease in combination with the physiological strain that the work places on the firefighter.” And further, the American Heart Association recently named cardiac arrest the leading cause of firefighter deaths. There are many, many more sources just like these, and it’s time we take them seriously.

It doesn’t help that we are more overweight than ever before. According to the report Addressing the Epidemic of Obesity in the United States Fire Service, the rates of overweight and obese firefighters are higher than those of the public at large. The study claims that 88 percent of firefighters are obese compared to 73 percent of the general population. This is a huge problem since obesity contributes to health issues like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. While many of the stats pertain to municipal firefighters, there’s no reason to believe that emergency responders in industry are not facing the same issues.

Staying in shape is about more than just being able to effortlessly lift a tripod. It’s a matter of life and death. Hopefully, you are convinced that fitness is a rescuer's duty just as much as knowing what to do in a given emergency situation. So what to do? How about stop reading right here and bang out 20 push-ups? Or stand up and stretch. Worried that your co-workers will think you’ve lost your mind? Focus on what they’ll think about you in a few months when you are crushing your fitness goals. Maybe you’ll see a few more people taking periodic breaks from sitting at their computer to do push-ups or stretch! If you’ve chosen to do something now, you have taken the first baby-step!

There are numerous resources out there, from website articles to official publications, that provide guidance for first responders and firefighters in particular when it comes to getting – and staying – healthy. One example is the U.S. Fire Administration’s Guide to Fitness and Wellness.

In Part II of this article, I will offer specific tips for fitness, diet, and lifestyle. But for now, I encourage you to take a look at these resources and consider how they apply to you. How can you commit to being healthier in the long term? How can you optimize your health and fitness to be the very best first responder you can be? I invite all of you – every single person reading this article – to join me in the quest to continually get healthier, fitter, and happier.

Continue to Part II, Rescuer Physical Fitness: Making It Happen

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Pat Furr

Pat Furr is a chief instructor, technical consultant, VPP Coordinator and Corporate Safety Officer for Roco Rescue, Inc. As a chief instructor, he teaches a wide variety of technical rescue classes including Fall Protection, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue and Suspended Worker Rescue. In his role as technical consultant, he is involved in research and development, writing articles, and presenting at national conferences. He is also a member of the NFPA 1006 Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications Standard. Prior to joining Roco in 2000, he served 20 years in the US Air Force as a Pararescueman (PJ).

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Successful Engulfment Rescue in Iowa

Monday, November 26, 2018

Successful Engulfment Rescue in IowaOur congratulations to the Burlington (Iowa) Fire Department on a successful grain bin rescue that happened in their community back in May of this year (2018). The incident was reported on Firehouse.com.

The Burlington Fire Department responded to an incident with a man trapped up to his neck inside a corn grain bin in a rural area. Upon arriving at the scene, the initial ambulance unit spoke with the victim’s son who told them that his father was buried up to his armpits inside the bin. The son had thrown a rope down to his father to prevent slipping further down into the corn. Fortunately, the victim remained calm and was able to communicate with the responders.

The bin, designed to hold up to 30,000 bushels of corn, was two thirds full on that morning.
Responders used a Res-Q-Throw Disc typically used in water rescue to lower an O2 bag with an attached non-rebreather mask to the victim.

As additional response vehicles arrived on scene, proper positioning of the apparatus was critical in assisting the rescue. The department’s aerial truck was positioned in a narrow lane between two grain bins and a barn where the aerial was deployed by the crew. The aerial was initially raised to the roof level where crews (two firefighters and two deputies) had assembled including the victim’s son.
To reduce weight on the roof of the structure, one of the deputies and the son came down from the structure.
Crews soon realized that the only way to rescue the gentleman was to set up a rope system and lower a responder into the bin. The aerial was put in place to assist this operation. An incident command vehicle was set up a short distance behind the aerial, offering excellent visibility to the Incident Commander.

Rescue equipment was gathered from various apparatus to include main and secondary life safety ropes as well as other needed gear. Pulleys were attached to the manufactured anchor points on the bottom of the aerial platform. A change-of-direction pulley was fixed to the front of the aerial truck directing the pulling action of the rope to a large grassy area in front of the truck. The main line was rigged with a 5:1 system while the secondary line was rigged with a 2:1 system. CMC MPDs were used as the descent-control device for both lines. On-scene personnel reportedly highly praised these devices.

A firefighter donned a Class III-harness to be lowered through a small opening in the top of the bin to the surface level of the corn, which was approximately 25 feet below. The aerial platform was positioned above the opening and remaining personnel on the room tended the lines. These personnel also assisted in lowering equipment down to the rescuer via a rope.

As part of the equipment being lowered were several milk crates and soda bottom flats, which became an essential part of the operation by distributing the rescuer’s weight on the corn. These crates, positioned in a horse-shoe pattern around the victim, allowed the rescuer to walk across the surface of the corn. A truck belt was lowered into the bin and was positioned around the victim’s chest. It remained attached to the secondary line to prevent the victim from slipping down further into the corn.

Finally, a six-paneled grain rescue tube was lowered into the bin panel by panel. Each panel was placed around the victim and then hammed into place with a TMT Rescue tool. The panels were fastened together to form a solid tube. When secured, the tube protected the victim from shifting corn and relieved some of the pressure being exert on him.
Throughout the process, the ground team kept the rescuer on a short leash to prevent him from falling into the grain himself.

A 4-gas atmospheric monitor with an extra-long sampling tube was used to test the air inside the bin to make sure the rescuer and victim were not in an IDLH atmosphere. The meter was monitored continuously throughout the rescue operation by fire personnel who was positioned on an extension ladder on the exterior of the bin near the opening. He also functioned as a safety officer for operations inside the bin and on the roof and relayed communications for the rescuer inside the space.

A neighboring fire department had brought a special grain rescue auger that was lowered into the bin. The rescuer inserted the auger inside the rescue tube and slowly removed the corn from around the victim’s chest. After the tube was secured around the victim, the IC had called for two relief cuts to be made in the bin – one cut near the victim and the other directly opposite it on the other side of the bin, which was used to empty the bin of corn. Crews used K-12 saws to cut a large triangular opening in the bin wall. The second opening was made by forcing open a door in the side of the bin near the victim. These doors, which swung inward, could only be opened after a significant amount of grain spilled from the cut made on the other side of the bin.

Local road crews which had been on site brought a large-end loader and a smaller skid loading to the scene and used them to push large amount of corn away from the openings in the walls, which enabled a continuous flow of corn.

In approximately 2-1/4 hours after crews arrived on scene, the victim was able to walk from the bin. He refused air transport but consented to ground ambulance transport where he was treated for minor injuries.

Again, our congratulations to the Burlington Fire Department as well as all the agencies involved in making this a successful rescue.

Notes:
The department noted several lessons learned which include:

• Grain bin rescue is a high hazard, low frequency event. The department recognized the importance of its training in ropes and rope operations as well as training with specialized rescue equipment.
• It was determined that the roofs of the grain bins hold far less weight than originally surmised.
• The aerial platform was a key factor in the rescue operation. It was used as an anchor point and for staging equipment. Physical limitations and maximum load-bearing capability must be carefully considered and even more especially when ropes are being utilized. Weight and angles of the aerial must be factored into the operation.

Source: www.Firehouse.com

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Host a Roco Course - Get FREE Training!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Has your Fire Department ever thought about hosting a Roco Confined Space Rescue course?

Host a Roco Course - Get FREE Training!
It just might be easier than you think! If your municipal department needs this kind of training, and you have a training site that would be adequate – it could be that simple.

We will be offering this opportunity for up to four (4) municipal fire departments in 2019. All we ask is help from you in promoting the class to local agencies and industries so that we can get a minimum of eight (8) paying students. Then your department would receive two (2) FREE spots in the 5-day class. The more paying students, the more FREE slots your department would earn. It’s a great way to get the training you need at no cost to your organization.

Details:

One of the first things we need is to determine if you have a site that will work for the training. So, you’ll need to send us a few photos of your training site. Then, we will need a signed letter from your Fire Chief (or other authority) providing permission to conduct a Roco course at your training site and invite participants from other organizations. In turn, your department would promote the class in your local area. Roco would provide the instructors and rescue equipment at no charge to you.

If you are interesting in hosting a course next year, please email your site photos along with a letter from your Fire Chief authorizing the use of your facility for the training and for allowing other personnel to attend. Send all information to us at info@RocoRescue.com.

Note: Limited to municipal agencies within the continental United States. Class to be Level I/I-II program. All course participants must be 18 or older, physically fit, and sign waivers prior to participation.
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Know When NOT to Enter a Confined Space!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Know When NOT to Enter a Confined Space!There are countless injuries and deaths across the nation when workers are not taught to recognize the inherent dangers of permit spaces. They are not trained when "not to enter" for their own safety. Many of these tragedies could be averted if workers were taught to recognize the dangers and know when NOT to enter a confined space.

While this incident happened several years ago, it emphasizes the senseless loss of life due to a lack of proper atmospheric monitoring and confined space training. Generally, the focus for training is for those who will be entering spaces to do the work. However, we also must consider those who work around confined spaces – those who may be accidentally exposed to the dangers. Making these individuals aware of the possible hazards as well as to stay clear unless they are properly trained.

Note: This case summary from the New York State Department of Health goes on to say that the DPW had a confined space training program but stopped the training after the last trainer retired.

CASE SUMMARY - TWO (2) FATALITIES
A 48-year-old male worker (Victim I) employed by the Department of Public Works (DPW) and a 51-year-old male volunteer firefighter (FF Victim II) died after entering a sewer manhole located behind the firehouse. In fact, the Fire Chief was on scene because he had been called by the DPW general foreman to unlock the firehouse and move the firetruck so it would not be blocked by the DPW utility truck working at the manhole. Another firefighter also arrived to offer assistance, he later became FF Victim II.

The manhole was 18 feet deep with an opening 24-inches in diameter (see photo above). Worker Victim I started climbing down the metal rungs on the manhole wall wearing a Tyvek suit and work boots in an attempt to clear a sewer blockage. The DPW foreman, another firefighter and FF Victim II walked over to observe. They saw Victim I lying on the manhole floor motionless. They speculated that he had slipped and fallen off the rungs and injured himself. The Fire Chief immediately called for an ambulance.

Meanwhile, FF Victim II entered the manhole to rescue Victim I without wearing respiratory protection. The other firefighter saw that FF Victim II fell off the rungs backwards while he was half way down and informed the Fire Chief. The Fire Chief immediately called for a second ambulance and summoned the FD to respond. FD responders arrived within minutes.

The Assistant Fire Chief (AFC) then donned a self-contained breathing apparatus. He could not go through the manhole opening with the air cylinder on his back. The cylinder was tied to a rope that was held by the assisting firefighters at the ground level. The AFC entered the manhole with the cylinder suspended above his head. He did not wear a lifeline although there was a tripod retrieval system. He secured FF Victim II with a rope that was attached to the tripod.

FF Victim II was successfully lifted out of the manhole. The AFC exited the manhole before a second rescuer entered the manhole and extricated Victim I in the same manner. Both victims were transported to an emergency medical center where they were pronounced dead an hour later. The cause of death for both victims was asphyxia due to low oxygen and exposure to sewer gases.

Contributors to the Firefighter's Death:
• Firefighters were not trained in confined space rescue procedures.
• FD confined space rescue protocol was not followed.
• Standard operating procedures (SOPs) were not established for confined space rescue.

Know When NOT to Enter a Confined Space!The DPW had developed a permit-required confined space program but stopped implementing it in 2004 when the last trained employee retired. They also had purchased a four-gas (oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide and combustible gases) monitor and a retrieval tripod to be used during the training. It was reported that a permit-required confined space program was never developed because DPW policy “prohibited workers” from entering a manhole. However, the no-entry policy was not enforced. Numerous incidents of workers entering manholes were confirmed by employee interviews.

This incident could have been much worse. Training is the key, whether it’s just an awareness of the dangers in confined spaces or proper entry and rescue procedures. In this case, the victims had no C/S training even though they may have to respond to an incident, and the worker had not had on-going training through out his career. Periodic training to keep our people safe and aware of proper protocols is key to maintaining a safe work force.

Unfortunately, training is usually one of the first things to be cut when the budget gets tight; however, after an incident, it usually becomes the primary focus. Often the lack of training is determined to be a key element in the tragedy.
Investing in periodic training for the safety of your workforce includes spending the time and money to keep your trainers and training programs up to speed and in compliance. The old saying, “closing the barn doors after the horses escaped,” is no way to protect your people – a little investment in prevention goes along way in preventing these tragedies.

One last comment on my biggest pet peeve – proper, continuous air monitoring. This one step can reduce the potential of a confined space incident by about 50%! Don’t take unnecessary chances that can be deadly.
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Dennis O'Connell

Dennis O'Connell has been a technical rescue consultant and professional instructor for Roco Rescue since 1989. He joined the company full-time in 2002 and is now the Director of Training and a Chief Instructor. Prior to joining Roco, he served on the NYPD Emergency Services Unit (ESU) for 17 years.

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