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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Is Your Rescue Team Ready?

Monday, July 23, 2018

Guidance for improving and maintaining rescue team proficiency...

Is Your Rescue Team Ready?
We all want to succeed, no matter what we are doing. And success is always better than the alternatives…whether a mediocre performance or worse yet, failure. When it comes to rescue, all of a sudden, the difference between success and failure takes on much greater significance.Not only are the lives of the rescue subjects held in the balance, but also the rescuers. Multiple risks are involved with technical rescue and failure may cost the rescuers mightily, and this has been proven too many times. There are many things, however, that rescuers can do to help improve their chances of success, and that's what we will talk about here. 
 

We have found that the one thing that seems to be a lagging factor is a "lack of proficiency" in performing the required skills either as individuals or as a team. Having rescue preplans, the newest and best equipment, sufficient manning, and reliable communications are all pieces of the puzzle. But all of that becomes nothing more than window-dressing if the team or individuals on the team are unable to perform their duties safely and effectively. This is such an important consideration that several regulations and standards make a point to remind us that proficiency is a high-interest issue. 

For instance, OSHA 1910.146 paragraph K and Appendix F, as well as 1926.1211, require designated rescuers to practice making permit space rescues at least once every 12 months by means of simulated rescue operations in which they remove dummies, manikins, or actual persons from the actual permit spaces or from representative permit spaces. It is our position that this does not even come close to the training time needed to maintain an appropriate level of proficiency. 

Additionally, NFPA 1006 requires rescuers to demonstrate competency on an annual basis. One of NFPA’s recommendations is to attend workshops and seminars, read professional publications, and participate in refresher training as ways technical rescue personnel can update their knowledge and skills. 

I am routinely asked how often a rescue team should practice. And they're always a bit surprised when I do not give them a hard and fast answer such as quarterly or monthly for a minimum of 4 hours. My answer is and will always be, “as often as it takes to ensure you are proficient, as individuals and as a team, to safely and effectively rescue potential victims from any situation you may be called to respond.”

Is Your Rescue Team Ready?

You would be amazed at the spectrum of training schedules that are out there. Some teams practice on a bi-weekly basis and mix in different scenarios to ensure they will not miss any opportunities to improve their skills or to identify any gaps they may have in technique or equipment. Whereas other teams may feel that once a year is all that they need. Knowing how perishable these skills are, we tend to disagree.

It has been our experience that the teams who practice on a very regular basis and really mix it up when they design their training scenarios are the ones who perform best when they come to our facility or we go to theirs for a team performance evaluation (TPE), which can also include an individual performance evaluation (IPE), if desired. The teams and individuals that struggle most during our TPE/IPE visits are the ones that seldom train. And, even though we all call these TPE/IPE visits, we do provide tips and spot training to help correct any deficiencies observed. 

But frequency is no guarantee of excellent performance. It isn’t just about the quantity of training; it must be the quality of training as well. One of the best ways to supplement in-house training is to attend third party refresher training. Or, if it has been a while since a full-on training class, by all means a more extensive and complete training package may be a great option. Roco's annual Rescue Challenge provides an excellent learning experience as well as a way to confirm the true rescue capabilities of your team. 

Technical rescue skills are one of the most perishable skills I have known. Without regular practice and quality training, it is not long before the individual and team skills erode to the point of becoming a liability to the victim and to other team members.

Again, none of us wants to fail - especially on a rescue mission. A good way to avoid this is to dedicate adequate resources to training along with regular refreshers and practice drills. Prepare and practice for your "worst case" scenarios because you just never know when your team may be put to the test. Be ready!

Written by Pat Furr, VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue, Inc.

Pat FurrAbout the Author:
Pat Furr has been employed with Roco since 2000 and has been actively involved with technical rescue since 1981. Pat is a Chief Instructor for Roco as well as its VPP Coordinator and Safety Officer. He is also a presenter at national conferences such as ASSE and VPPPA. Prior to Roco, Pat served 20 years in the USAF as a Pararescueman (PJ). His background includes eight years as a member of the 71st Pararescue team in Anchorage, Alaska, where he specialized in mountain and glacier rescue. Pat was a team leader of the 1986 and 1988 PJ teams that summited Mt. McKinley and augmented the National Park Service mountain rescue team. He also spent two tours of duty in Iceland where he put in multiple “first ascent” ice routes.


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OSHA-1926 Dockside Rescue Requirements

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

OSHA-1926 Dockside Rescue Requirements Roco now offers marine rescue standby services for the Baton Rouge-New Orleans industrial corridor. As with other Roco services, our personnel are experienced emergency responders trained to provide lifesaving skills when it matters most.

All Roco marine standby personnel are First Responder/ CPR/First Aid trained, and most are EMT’s. Our boats are fully equipped with First Aid kits, AEDs and O2 for prompt emergency care.

For construction work over or near waterways, OSHA 1926.106 requires certain safety precautions – including the timely response of a boat to rescue a fallen worker. In fact, according to one OSHA LOI, the retrieval of an employee from the water is required no more than 3 to 4 minutes from the time they entered the water. And, depending on hazards present, it could be required even sooner.

Section 1926.106(d) states:
At least one lifesaving skiff shall be immediately available at locations where employees are working over or adjacent to water.

The intent of the paragraph is to ensure prompt rescue of employees that fall into the water, regardless of other precautions taken to prevent this from occurring. Thus, OSHA requires that employers supply a skiff to affect a prompt water rescue. 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.

The requirement in 1926.106(d) addresses the hazard of falls that may occur in the event of a failure of the operation of fall protection devices or a lapse in their use. An employer is also required to comply with all other applicable standards including, but not limited to, the requirements that an injured employee be treated by medical personnel or an employee certified in first aid within 3 to 4 minutes from the time the injury occurred. This could mean that first aid treatment would have to begin in the lifesaving skiff or boat.

For more information on this service, please contact Roco at 800-647-7626 or email info@rocorescue.com.

Resources: OSHA 1926.106 as well as Letters of Interpretation (LOI’s) dated 8/23/04; 12/5/03; 12/6/91; and 06/13/90.

NOTE:  In this article, Roco cites OSHA 1926.106 which applies to construction activities while working over or near water. For other industries such as shipyard (Part 1915), marine terminals (Part 1917), or longshoring (Part 1918), please refer to those standards for specific requirements, particularly for PFDs and rescue skiffs. OSHA does not require rescue skiffs for all industry activities. However, keep in mind, OSHA sets minimum standards. And, remember, there’s a safe way and a safer way!

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Job Assignments and Rescue Duties

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Job Assignments and Rescue DutiesQUESTION: Should industrial rescue team members be informed of any scheduled confined space entries at the beginning of their shift?

ANSWER: While OSHA does not mandate that individual team members be notified; common sense and best practices do. Here’s our reasoning for encouraging this “information sharing” at the beginning of each shift.

First of all, it is the Entry Supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that the rescue service is available prior to each PRCS entry. This verification should be performed in a way that confirmation of availability can be documented. There are various reasons that the in-house team may not be immediately available, so it’s up to the Entry Supervisor to plan ahead and coordinate with the team. Most often in-house industrial rescue team members have regular job assignments in addition to their rescue duties. Depending on the particular assignment, he or she may or may not be available to respond to a rescue emergency. In fact, we have heard of incidents where the Entry Supervisor just “assumed” that because the facility had an in-house rescue team that the team would always be ready to respond. In one instance when an in-house team was notified of a PRCS emergency, only one (1) team member was on shift and available to respond. Apparently, other team members were on sick leave, vacation, or at shift change. As you can see, two-way communication between the Entry Supervisor and the rescue service is a must!

Having a system in place that allows on-duty team members to be aware of PRCS entries that are scheduled during a given shift allows them to start the preplan process, which will help reduce response and preparation times. It also provides Team Leaders (IC) with a better understanding of possible rescue needs and how best to utilize available resources if an emergency situation should arise. And, these are just some of the reasons we recommend that on-duty team members be accounted for and be made aware of any entries occurring during their shift - including the location, the type of entry and the hazards involved. It simply provides for better preparation; thus, making everyone safer.

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New Pocket Guide from Roco

Monday, February 12, 2018

New Pocket Guide from Roco Newly revised and updated with 82-pages of color drawings and detailed illustrations, Roco's new Pocket Guide features techniques taught in our rescue classes. Made from synthetic paper that is impervious to moisture makes this pocket-sized guide the perfect reference during training or on the scene.

Pocket Guide features: Knots - Rigging - Patient Packaging - Lower/Hauling Systems - Tripod Operations - Low Angle - Pick-off Rescue - High-lines - Confined Spaces and much more.

Reference charts include: Confined Space Types, Suspension Trauma, and Rescue Gear Service Life Chart.

SPECIAL PRICING OF $29.95 THROUGH APRIL 1, 2018 - No Foolin'!

Click here to order your copy today!!

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