By Lieutenant Edward ("Jib") Webster
On April 21, 2012 Fort Lauderdale (FL) Fire-Rescue along with several other fire departments participated in a regional technical rescue team (TRT) training drill. The assignment for each department was the removal of a victim from the top of an overpass, which was under construction. Although the different departments tackled the rescue successfully, there were slight variations in accomplishing the task. In each occurrence, the patient was safely removed and delivered for care.
The value of conducting this type of drill is multi-faceted, such as fine-tuning a mutual aid response among the participating departments, in this case, Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue, Sunrise Fire Rescue, and Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue. Teamwork is an essential part in mutual aid situations. Another benefit is learning the various types of equipment used by other fire departments, as well as learning new ways to use our own. Obviously, this proves to be most urgent when TRT members find themselves at the top of a building or water tower making real-life rescues and having the knowledge and skill it takes to effectively utilize this very same lifesaving equipment.
Two years ago, Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue was involved in one such mutual aid rescue for two men who were trapped in a 160-foot water tower in Hollywood, Florida. On October 8, 2010, the city of Hollywood requested assistance from FLFR TRT to perform an elevated victim rescue where members faced hazards such as dangerous chemical fumes and a dangerously corroded railing. As a result of being well trained in this special operation, TRT members saved the lives of two injured men who had been sandblasting and coating the inside of the tower.
"It was a dramatic rescue that attracted national media attention and continues to demonstrate the need for special rescue teams. The gusting winds compounded with the curvature of the tank made it a very difficult rescue," said Assistant Fire Chief John Molenda.
As a result of continually honing members' skills through these types of drills, the department will continue to be better trained for all types of special operations rescues. "These rescues are not common day incidents. It is important that fire departments recognize the need for this type of specialized training and equipment. I am proud of this fire department, and I am especially impressed with our specialty ops members," said Molenda.