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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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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Chris Carlsen: A Familiar Face Steps into a New Role as Director of Training

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

After 21+ years as a municipal firefighter with Albuquerque Fire Rescue, Chris Carlsen is stepping into a new role as Roco Rescue’s Director of Training. He brings to the role a background that includes extensive experience as an instructor, as a developer of curricula, and as a technical rescue program manager.

Chris is a self-proclaimed technical rescue “geek,” and his resume backs this up - he’s trained in everything from fall protection to large animal rescue operations. Although this is a new title for Chris, he’s been part of the Roco Rescue family for many years and is no stranger to Roco’s students and customers. In many ways, it’s a role he’s been preparing for all his life. Chris Carlsen speaks to participants at Roco Rescue Challenge

As the son of a firefighter, Chris got a lot of exposure at an early age to the world of fire and rescue. He gained a sense for how the work of first responders was highly valued and appreciated in his community. This sparked a desire in young Chris to pursue a similar life of service.

At age 23, he graduated from fire training school and joined what was then known as the Albuquerque Fire Department. Today the department is called Albuquerque Fire Rescue, and the name change reflects the changing demands of the job.

“An increasing portion of our calls involve some type of technical rescue,” Chris explains. “There’s a growing need for skills in trench, confined space, rope rescue, tower rescue, building collapse, vehicle extrication, machinery extrication, swiftwater rescue, and so on.”

Learning and Skill Development as a Never-Ending Journey

Chris got his first real taste of technical rescue about 2 years into his career when his department sent him to a Roco Rescue course. He quickly followed that up with a second Roco Rescue course on confined space and rope rescue. At that point, he knew he was passionate about technical rescue and had a desire to develop his skills further. However, his department needed him to step into a role as an instructor of fire suppression, which put his technical rescue development on temporary hold.

“That role made it clear to me that I loved teaching. I think people who love teaching also love learning,  because if you don’t know your topic inside out, you’ll realize it very quickly when teaching it, so you have to enjoy the process of very thoroughly learning about whatever topics you’re teaching.”

After about four years devoting his energy to teaching fire suppression, Chris was able to get back to technical rescue, again with a Roco Rescue course. He quickly became aware of how rusty his knowledge had become.

“It was a clear demonstration of how perishable technical rescue skills are,” he says.

Chris decided that the best way to maintain his technical rescue skills was to put them to good use, so he applied for part-time, off-duty work with Roco Rescue as a member of their standby rescue team. Chris’ work ethic, demeanor and communication skills made him an obvious choice as a candidate for Roco’s instructor development program, and Chris began working as a Roco Rescue instructor – again, during off-shifts from the fire department – back in 2006.

The skills he acquired with Roco Rescue – both as a rescuer and as an instructor - were immediately transferable to his role with Albuquerque Fire Rescue. Chris has been the Technical Rescue Program Manager for the past 8 years, a role in which he ensures the department has all the skills and equipment necessary to perform the many technical rescue sub-specialties required of a large municipal fire-rescue department.

“Rescue work is really a team sport. There are so many different skills required, and sub-specialties, so nobody can be an expert in everything. You need to diversify the training across your team.”

Keep It Safe and Simple!

Not one to get overwhelmed by all that there is to learn and train for, Chris’ interests span all areas of technical rescue as well as rescue team management and skill development.

“I just really enjoy teaching as well as learning new things – and there are always new techniques and new equipment to learn about in rescue. A big part of my job at Roco Rescue is to cut through the clutter and focus our courses on core principles, and identify the methods that are simple, effective and broadly applicable. We use the K.I.S.S. rule: Keep It Safe and Simple! We’re always evaluating new techniques, new equipment and making sure we’re compliant with the latest standards. We love to innovate and try out new methods, because we’re always trying to find a safer way. But part of that evaluation is the K.I.S.S. rule, so even if it’s a cool idea, if it’s more complicated than it needs to be, if it’s not repeatable or practical, we won’t include it in our curriculum because it wouldn’t serve our customers well.”

Chris’ most recent role managing the technical rescue program at Albuquerque Fire Rescue gives him the perspective of many of the customers he now serves as Roco Rescue’s Director of Training. He knows what it’s like to be responsible for maintaining and developing the skills of a team of technical rescuers. He understands the importance of ensuring a team’s equipment needs are met, and that the team is healthy from a numbers and recruitment standpoint. He knows what it’s like to stand in his customers’ shoes because he has been there.

5 Tips for Managing Technical Rescue Teams

When asked for his thoughts on how to best manage the training needs of a technical rescue team, Chris emphasized these points:

  1. Do a thorough evaluation of your team. This will guide your approach to training. Identify your high-potential team members – those who are hungriest to learn, as opposed to those who are content to get to a basic level and maintain. Feed the hungry ones with additional training opportunities. If your team has skill deficiencies in particular areas, they are your best people to invest in.
  2. Work on building a culture of growth, where every team member seeks out opportunities to develop, and where team members are supportive of each other. It’s better to have a team of squeaky wheels who are constantly asking for additional training than a team that’s passive, even if they’re easier to manage.
  3. Training frequency will vary greatly, depending on the make-up of the team. Teams with high turnover or lots of new members probably need to do team exercises once a month. Most teams probably need to train once a quarter.
  4. Team training is distinct from individual practice. Individuals should be putting their hands on the equipment as often as possible. This means going to the gear locker and checking out some rope, cams and pulleys to build a mechanical advantage system in your spare time so that you know it cold. Team training sessions shouldn’t get bogged down by individuals who consistently struggle to execute their role.
  5. Variety in training is very important. No two rescue scenarios are the same, so training the same way all the time gives teams a false sense of security. That said, the scenarios don’t have to be radically different all the time – seemingly small changes to the scenario can add a lot of variety. Try adding one additional corner to navigate during your confined space rescue exercise. Or try the same rescue but with the lights off to simulate a power outage. Or work a scenario on air, and designate your strongest team member as the victim, and see how the team picks up the slack.

Paying it Forward

Chris also makes frequent mention of the high caliber people he’s worked with during his career as a firefighter and rescuer. “I’m very blessed to have always worked with great teammates and for great managers. Many people have steered me in the right direction, and helped me learn, grow and advance in my career. That statement applies to both my Albuquerque Fire Rescue family and my Roco Rescue family. I think it’s one of the benefits of this line of work – just lots of really great people. It definitely creates a desire in me to pay it forward.” 

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Roco Rescue One Of "America’s Safest Companies" According To EHS Today

Monday, November 11, 2019

Dallas, TX – November 11, 2019 – Roco Rescue, a world leader in technical rescue training and a provider of industrial rescue services, was named one of America’s Safest Companies by EHS Today. The award was presented November 6th at EHS Today’s 2019 Safety Leadership Conference in Dallas.

EHS Today AwardThe companies selected to this prestigious list have shown a commitment to environmental health and safety (EHS) efforts that span from the executive team through all levels of the organization. This includes documented evidence of:

  • comprehensive safety training programs
  • an EHS process that involves all employees
  • incident prevention as a foundation of their program
  • clear communications about safety
  • injury and illness rates that demonstrate safety leadership in their industry
  • an innovative approach to safety challenges
  • data capture that measures and substantiates the benefits of the safety process

“It is such an honor to be recognized by EHS Today as one of America’s Safest Companies,” says Roco Rescue’s President and CEO Kay Goodwyn. “We understand that our company’s success is based on safe operations every single day, and I’m proud of all of our personnel who help us achieve our mission.”

The editors of EHS Today noted Roco Rescue’s proven track record with zero injuries and zero general liability claims as evidence of the efficacy of its safety processes. Roco Rescue trains approximately 3,000 students each year in highly-technical and potentially dangerous activities; and in 2018 and during the first two quarters of 2019, Roco Rescue conducted more than 1,200 Standby Rescue assignments at industrial and municipal sites, logging over 140,000 hours, all while maintaining a track record of zero incidents.

The editors of EHS Today also noted Roco Rescue’s dedication to safe practices for its employees, as demonstrated by the emphasis placed on safety training and continued evaluation of safety practices for programs and equipment, which includes daily tailgate safety meetings before each job assignment.

Tim Brad EHS TodayEHS Today commended Roco Rescue for adopting safety procedures that go above and beyond OSHA, ANSI, and industry standards. For example, with regards to Rope Rescue Operations, Roco Rescue exceeds NFPA 1006 and NFPA 1983 by adopting the ANSI Z359.1 standard for fall protection.

In addition, participation in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program as a VPP Star worksite since 2013 entails development and continuous improvement of safety and health programs that go above and beyond OSHA’s standard requirements.

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US Coast Guard Warning Underscores the Dangers of Confined Space Entry

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

By Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator

The US Coast Guard issued a warning on the dangers of confined spaces after three crew members died of asphyxiation on a drilling rig. Although this tragedy occurred during a maritime operation and does not fall under the OSHA general industry nor the construction industry standards for permit required confined spaces, OSHA’s 1915 Subpart B does have clear guidance regarding confined and enclosed spaces and other dangerous atmospheres in shipyard employment. Additionally, 1915 Subpart B Appendix B provides the US Coast Guard requirements for an authorized person in lieu of a marine chemist. The USCG Safety Alert does not mention any member of the crew being either a marine chemist or a USCG authorized person assigned to evaluate the atmospheric conditions of the space. 

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This tragedy follows an all-too-common pattern of multi-fatality incidents where subsequent workers died in an attempt to rescue the original victim. While it is clear that there were considerations and provisions to ventilate the toxic gases that were either present in the space or were introduced into the space, it is obvious that the passive ventilation attempts fell well short of what was required. OSHA, ANSI, and the USCG all provide easily accessible and clear guidance regarding working in confined spaces.

Please take it upon yourself to ask anyone and everyone that you encounter that may be entering confined spaces: "Does your employer have a permit required confined space program that is at least compliant with OSHA?" It just may save their life. 

For a deeper understanding of OSHA’s requirements for permit required confined space rescue, including the factors that should be considered for determining whether non-entry is feasible, check out our article, “Confined Space Rescue: Non-Entry or Entry Rescue?” To learn how teams can share responsibility for risk-assessment and mitigation, check out "Safe Confined Space Entry - A Team Approach."

Click here to read the news article about this incident and the USCG Safety Alert.

 

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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