BY LARRY COLLINS
High-angle rescues tend to involve one or two victims-perhaps a hiker who has become stranded on a cliff; individuals in a vehicle that has driven off a mountain road; or other individuals who have gotten themselves into a predicament requiring firefighters and other rescuers to use ropes, cables, capstans, helicopters, and other high-angle rescue methods.
Occasionally, however, a high-angle incident also becomes a multi-casualty emergency. When it does, firefighters and other rescuers are faced with competing problems that must be addressed simultaenously: accessing the victims, triaging them in terms of medical need and difficulty of their physical rescue, treating their injuries in high-risk environments, extricating them from vehicles when necessary, packaging them for lifting operations, and extracting them to safety.
MOST HIGH-ANGLE INCIDENTS REQUIRE UNIFIED COMMAND
Multicasualty, high-angle incidents are challenging to incident commanders, who must coordinate simultaneous critical operations. They must balance the need to treat the victims against the need to remove them from a hostile environment using technical means. They must evaluate the risk-vs.-gain equation when determining which strategies to adopt, ensuring a reasonable level of safety for the rescuers, including maintaining personnel accountability and rapid intervention capabilities in case of mishaps.
In many (if not most) cases, unified command is required for successful and timely management of these incidents. Good cooperation among fire department, law enforcement, local rescue teams, and even the coroner’s office (and, in some cases, federal transportation investigators or terrorism response agencies) is essential for proper resolution of high-angle rescue situations. Incident command will also be challenged dealing with media coverage which may be intense during significant incidents of this nature.
Multicasualty, high-angle emergencies also are challenging for first responders, who must size up the situation; request additional resources; determine the initial tactics; make initial contact with victims; attempt to access, triage, and treat them; and safely extricate those who can be removed.
For paramedics and EMTs, these incidents require a somewhat nuanced yet aggressive approach that balances the need to triage, treat, and transport multiple victims to the appropriate medical facility in the most expedient manner against the reality that those in the most immediate need of medical treatment and transportation may be the least accessible. The victim may be located in remote and inaccessible areas where resources are scarce, response times may be lengthy, and the use of helicopters and other means may be required because of the distances and terrain.
Also, because these incidents sometimes take many hours to resolve, prehospital care for badly injured victims may be frustratingly protracted, requiring imaginative solutions that can be implemented in high-risk environments.
These incidents present a challenge for rescue companies, technical rescue units, and search and rescue teams, whose job is to reinforce the first responders and establish definitive means of safely extricating and removing all the victims in the most expedient manner. This may mean removing less seriously injured victims who are more accessible (or less entrapped) than the most severely injured victims, which is counterintuitive to normal prehospital care. In some cases, victims with relatively minor injuries may be in the way of reaching more injured people, requiring their removal just to get at the people most in need of care.
Then there are the pure logistical complications of apparatus placement on narrow mountain roads or inaccessible locations: establishing perimeter control and traffic control; moving equipment, staffing, and victims in difficult terrain; coordinating the removal and transportation of victims as they are extracted; keeping track of the identity, injuries, treatment, and destination of victims as they are removed; and maintaining accountability of personnel and equipment.
TWO CHALLENGING CASES IN THE CALIFORNIA FOREST
There have been two notable examples of multicasualty, high-angle rescues that occurred nearly a decade apart in Southern California’s Angeles National Forest.
The first incident occurred in December 2004, when a carpool van carrying 10 employees of the Jet Propulsion Laboratories to work through the San Gabriel Mountains plunged 400 feet off the winding and treacherous Angeles Forest Highway.
Several of the victims were physically trapped in the remains of the van, which ended up in the bottom of a steep, chapparal-covered ravine. This incident required the use of portable, battery-powered extrication tools; multiple high-angle rescue systems; innovative use of helicopters using hoists in a multivictim shuttle that also included ground ambulances; and extremely close cooperation and coordination among multiple agencies working under unified command (photos 1,2).
(1) LACoFD USAR and USFS responders carry rescue litters and battery-powered hydraulic rescue tools down a side ravine leading to the crash site.
(2) Firefighters and Montrose SAR team members worked around debris from the van to extricate, treat, and package the victims. (Photos by author.)
The second accident, in November 1996, involved six military personnel on secret nighttime high-angle maneuvers who fell to the bottom of a waterfall, killing two and seriously injuring four. The ensuing rescue operations challenged local firefighters and members of a mountain rescue team, who worked for hours to treat, extract, and transport the trapped soldiers.
For the firefighters who responded to these incidents (and some of them were on the scene of both events), it came as no surprise that accidents of this magnitude would happen in the Angeles Forest, which encompasses 693,000 acres spread across the broken topography of the 11,000-foot-high San Gabriel Mountains.
The San Gabriels are among the steepest mountains in North America because they run alongside the San Andreas Fault, whose tectonic pressures raise the mountains faster than they can be eroded. These mountains also are the site of some of the worst fires, floods, landslides, and mudflows in the Americas, and technical rescues are a daily occurrence in them. The proximity of this area to more than 16 million people living in the surrounding towns, cities, and counties create an environment that lends itself to an unlimited variety of rescue situations. With more than 30 million visitors a year, “The Angeles” (as it is known to locals) is the busiest national forest in the United States and the site of the most technical rescues each year.
RESOURCES, UNIFIED COMMAND, AND MOAs
To provide fire, rescue, and EMS service in this rugged environment, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD), and the Sheriff Department (LACoSD) long ago established automatic-aid agreements to expedite the response of the closest resources. There are a number of Forest Service fire stations within the Angeles Forest, and the LACoFD has nearly three dozen fire stations in communities that border the forest on all sides. The LACoSD patrols the mountains to assist with law enforcement, and several volunteer mountain search and rescue teams are based in communities on the perimeter of the forest.
The USFS and LACoFD fight wildland and interface fires together and respond to EMS emergencies, traffic collisions, and technical search and rescue emergencies.
Based on a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the fire and sheriff department heads, the LACoFD is the primary provider of EMS in the mountains, and the LACoSD is the support agency, responding its search and rescue teams and a five-member helicopter-based EMS/rescue team that includes paramedics. The LACoSD is designated as the lead agency for search and rescue, with the LACoFD designated as the support agency, responding to all technical rescue emergencies with a substantial first alarm.
Per the MOA, both agencies will ensure that the other agency is immediately notified of any EMS or technical rescue emergencies in the mountains, and both agencies will respond simultaneously and establish unified command to ensure a coordinated effort that provides the best life-saving service to the public.
For most technical search and rescue emergencies in the Angeles Forest, the LACoFD supports the USFS and LACoSD by dispatching a first-alarm response that includes one engine company (three or four firefighters); one truck company (four firefighters); one rescue task force (six firefighters trained and operating as a Type I USAR company based on California FIRESCOPE “typing” standards); one brush patrol (one firefighter); one ground-based paramedic squad (two firefighter/paramedics); one fire/rescue helicopter (one pilot, two firefighter/paramedics); and one battalion chief.
The LACoFD’s Heavy Rescue and Recovery (HRR) unit, a heavy wrecker/rescue apparatus with a 60-ton boom that has a 35-foot reach, dual cable winches, and other features, also is dispatched as part of most of these responses to provide additional access, stabilization, and lifting capabilities for vehicles over-the-side and certain other high-angle problems.
It is common for the incident commander to request the response of a wildland camp crew (14 members) accustomed to operating in steep mountain environments and ready to use chain saws and hand tools to clear a path through chaparral, assist with personnel, and (when necessary) to help carry victims from the back country.
This means up to 21 firefighters typically respond on the first alarm for technical rescue operations and up to 35 firefighters may be found on the scene of more challenging rescues, plus another half dozen or more firefighters from the USFS. Add to this the Sheriff Department’s mountain rescue team (composed of local volunteers), the sheriff rescue helicopter (which responds in a designated response area, as the entire county has been divided into jurisdictions assigned to the LACoFD and LACoSD copters), and the other resources, and it may seem an overwhelming number of rescuers to dispatch to a single technical search and rescue incident.
However, all are needed for the most complex or remote incidents, especially when there are multiple casualties.
CASE 1: JPL VAN RESCUE AT THE BOTTOM OF 400-FOOT RAVINE
On a morning in December 2004, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) unit happened on the scene, and the officer reported a Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) commuter van with 10 victims, several of whom were in full cardiac arrest and all of whom were trapped in a van at the bottom of a 400-foot ravine.
The USFS upgraded its response to include additional forest service fire units. Hearing of the multiple trapped victims as his unit rolled out of Fire Station 82 in the city of LaCanada (at the base of the San Gabriels), the captain of first-due LACoFD Engine 82 requested three additional fire/rescue helicopters, four additional ambulances, three additional ground-based paramedic squads, three additional engine companies and brush patrols, and an additional Rescue Task Force. The LACoFD dispatched two helicopters (one was already responding on the first alarm), and the LACoSD dispatched its on-duty rescue helicopter (photo 3).
(3) View of the command post and some of the apparatus positioned at the scene for ground-based raising and lowering operations.
It is typically a 15- to 20-minute response for the first-due units to this section of the Angeles Forest Highway, and the captains and battalion chiefs in this area are well-practiced at requesting additional resources when information indicates an extensive or difficult rescue operation, long before they arrive on the scene. This proactive approach paid huge dividends in this incident and was partly responsible for the ability to remove all living victims within the first two hours of arrival.
Patrol 82 (the station’s wildland patrol) arrived first. The firefighter made his way partway down the slope and confirmed that the CHP’s report was correct and that this was a multicasualty, high-angle rescue situation that was going to require extensive physical extrication from the van and multiple high-angle rescue systems to reach and remove all the victims. The patrol firefighter radioed that low-hanging clouds might limit the ability of the responding helicopters to reach the scene and that the clouds were on the verge of enveloping the scene (fortunately, the morning sun began to cut through the cloud cover to some extent and eventually raised the ceiling to a more workable level for the helicopters).
Engine 82 arrived, assumed command, named the incident (the “JPL Incident”), deployed its personnel over the side on a rappel line that had been established by Patrol 82, and assigned Light Force 82 (a truck company and engine company combined with a single captain) to set up a dual-rope lowering/raising system to begin deploying extrication and medical equipment and litter teams over the side (photo 4). Patrol 82’s firefighter became the triage leader; the others began assisting with medical treatment and packaging of victims who could be pulled from the wreckage. However, most of the victims were physically trapped, and extrication equipment had to be sent down the steep slope.
(4) The two-line raising and lowering system operating on the capstan on the front bumper of USAR-103. The top rope is the “main” raising/lowering line; the lower rope is the belay line.
Battalion 4 then assumed command as “JPL IC” and assigned Engine 82’s captain as Operations. Light Force 82’s captain became the Rescue Group supervisor, and the firefighter/paramedics on first-due paramedic Squad 19 became the Medical Group supervisor and Medical Communications. Battalion 4 established unified command with the CHP officer and with officers of the LACoSD and the USFS as they arrived.
The Sheriff Department’s Montrose SAR Team’s first role was to establish a lowering/raising system using its rescue truck with an onboard extendable boom with a capstan and winch system and to begin preparing litter teams to go over the side. Montrose SAR Team members, who are expert climbers and riggers and mountains rescue authorities, quickly set up their operations. As their litter teams were deployed to the bottom, they assisted also with extrication and medical treatment of victims before packaging and extracting those assigned to them (photo 5).
(5) USAR-103 personnel raising a litter team with equipment from the side ravine, using one of the unit’s bumper-mounted capstans.
The van had launched off the road and flew a substantial distance before hitting the slope and then tumbling to the bottom. It ended up crumpled in a narrow drainage with steep sides in loose crumbly soil surrounded by head-high brush and sporadic cactus plants that made travel up and down the slopes difficult and dangerous.
EXTRICATION OPERATIONS COMPLICATED BY LACK OF ACCESS
The extrication operations were complicated by the bodies piled together within the wrecked van, the lack of standing room, the absence of good purchase points, the V-shaped hollow that prevented normal extrication access from the sides, and other factors. The first copter to arrive was assigned to pick up a hydraulic rescue system from Light Force 82 and to lower it down to the scene using the hoist.
As this was happening, Rescue Task Force 103 and Rescue Tender 103 (a former ground paramedic unit converted to carry rope rescue, rapid intervention, swiftwater rescue, extrication equipment, a rescue boat, and other strategic gear, and able to negotiate narrow and dirt roads that would prevent the larger rescue apparatus from reaching remote scenes) arrived and was assigned to scout a path along a drainage to reach the van, to assist with extrication and establish another lowering/raising system using its dual capstans. This would be the third lowering/raising system at the scene, allowing rescuers to approach the crumpled van from multiple angles and routes.
The captain of USAR 103 assigned Firefighter Chris Rascon (Rescue Tender 103) to load the unit’s battery-powered extrication tool (cutter/spreader system) in its backpack and scout his way down the drainage to the van to report whether the drainage could be used to raise victims back up in rescue litters with rope assist (hopefully avoiding the thick chapparal and cactus) and to assist with extrication operations. Meanwhile, the other members of Rescue Task Force 103 set up the capstan system using an Arizona-vortex as the high point on the edge of a drop-off into the ravine and began preparing to insert litter teams after Rascon reported that the ravine was a difficult, but, accessible route for them to approach the van, and also that rope assists would be necessary to extract victims and equipment.
When Rescue Task Force 134 arrived, members were assigned also to make their way down the drainage with their own extrication tool and rescue litters carrying equipment, to assist with extrication, treatment, packaging, helicopter hoist, and litter team operations. Rescue 134 Captain John Haugh, formerly of LACoFD’s Air Operations unit, was eventually assigned to coordinate the ground operations with the hoisting copter (e.g., positioning the victims in litters one at a time, calling for the hoist cable, attaching the cable to the litter pre-rig, attaching a tag line to the litter to prevent it from spinning while in the air, signaling for the lift to begin, and generally coordinating between the ground rescuers and the copter crew).
As the copter finished its first assigned task, three additional copters arrived in the area.JPL IC assigned one to land at a large turnout on the Angeles Forest Highway in preparation to receive and transport victims as they were extracted from the canyon. He assigned the other two copters to stage at a nearby turnout spur of a mountain where they could land.
In discussing the problem of multiple victim extractions (and the need to expedite some of them to trauma centers) with Operations, the Rescue Group, and the first-due copter (via radio), the IC agreed that it would be advantageous to keep the first LACoFD copter (a Firehawk, the civilian fire/rescue version of the military Blackhawk) in position over the van as the primary hoisting aircraft, which could extract victims one by one from the canyon with the cable partly retracted and “short haul” each to a waiting copter for transport to the appropriate trauma center (photo 6).
(6) One of LACoFD’s Firehawk helicopters was assigned as the “hoist ship” for the majority of the hoist rescues.
It was agreed that in this instance, it would be more efficient than having each copter come in separately over the scene and conduct its own hoist operation. It would maintain consistency of operations over the rescue site and allow the crew of the first copter to concentrate on hoisting and short hauling while the other copters could perform a “round robin” of patient loading and takeoffs to the trauma centers (photo 7).
(7) The LACoFD Bell 412 copter finishes hoisting a victim from the canyon, moments after the crewman disconnected the tag line.
This strategy proved very successful in rapidly extracting live victims from the bottom of the canyon as they were pried from the van and packaged. It allowed the most critically injured victims to be removed from the ravine in a timely manner, shuttled to the next-in-line copter, and flown directly to a trauma center. Less seriously injured victims were shuttled to ground ambulances for transportation to designated hospitals.
Hospital destinations were coordinated by the paramedic/firefighter from Squad 19 assigned as Med Communications. The other triage and treatment operations were coordinated by the Medical Group leader (this position was assumed by the first-arriving LACoFD paramedic coordinator captain, who was dispatched as the incident escalated to a multivictim event).
Because of the efficiency and speed of the “round robin” approach to copter hoisting, most of the live victims were lifted from the ravine by helicopter hoist operations. In the end, the deceased victims were removed by litter teams on the ground-based raising system established by the Montrose SAR Team. The equipment and remaining personnel were hauled out of the canyon on the other two ground-based raising systems and the Montrose SAR team system.
Using this unified command approach with all agencies working closely together (a hallmark of mountain rescue operations in Los Angeles County for many years), all live victims were extricated from the crushed van, removed from the canyon, and en route to trauma centers of hospitals within two hours, a remarkable achievement considering the remote location, the rugged terrain, extrication problems, weather issues, and the multiple victims.
CASE 2: TRAINING MISSION SUFFERS TRAGEDY
Late one night in November 1996, the USFS, LACoFD, and LACoSD responded to a report of a “cliff rescue” incident high in the San Gabriel Mountains, deep in the Angeles Forest. The LACoFD dispatched a first alarm “cliff rescue” response, which included Engine 82, Light Force 82, Squad 19, Copter 16, USAR-1 (the LACoFD’s central USAR/rescue company at the time, until it was replaced by Rescue Task Force 103), and Battalion 4. Also responding were the closest USFS station and two volunteers members of the Montrose Search and Rescue Team.
Engine 82 and Light Force 82 arrived with Battalion 4 and Patrol 82 after a 25-minute response up the steep Angeles Crest Highway, and they were met on a dirt motorway by men in camouflaged fatigues driving a black four-wheel drive with smoked windows. They quickly explained they were part of a military team on maneuvers when a serious mishap occurred. They indicated there was an urgent rescue situation, with a half dozen soldiers trapped at the bottom of a waterfall, some with potentially fatal injuries and CPR was in progress.
The black truck led the firefighters along a dirt fire road that wound across a razorback ridge, arriving at the accident site 10 minutes later, while the captain of Engine 82 requested additional ambulances and paramedic squads, as well as a 14-member Camp Crew, and relayed information about the accident site to other responding units.
The firefighters were directed to the top of a steep chute leading down into a deep canyon, and they were informed that six specially trained soldiers had fallen to the bottom while ascending “hand-over-hand” on a rope during a secret training mission. They were reported to be badly injured; CPR was performed on two men. The captain of Engine 82 requested an additional helicopter and then gave the incident a geographic name and passed command to Battalion 4.
Meanwhile, following standard protocol (which includes getting an EMT-trained and/or a paramedic-trained firefighter to the side of trapped victims without delay to physically stabilize them, assess their medical condition, provide life-saving medical intervention, and begin the process of extraction), the captain of Light Force 82 directed his firefighters to establish a rappel line using Engine 82 as the anchor. He assigned one of his most experienced firefighters to immediately rappel “over the side” with an EMS backpack and a radio to assess the situation at the bottom and report back by radio.
As soon as the first firefighter made it to the bottom, the captain of Light Force 82 and two other firefighters rappelled down to help him assess the situation and treat patients. They found a chaotic scene: two military personnel in full cardiac arrest, with colleagues performing CPR in the cramped space and on rocks; four others suffering various or critical injuries from an 80-foot free-fall into the bottom of the chute, one falling atop the other. Apparently, as they scaled the rope hand-over-hand, the man at the top lost his grip and fell backward on the next in line. He, in turn, peeled off the rope, and there was an immediate domino effect with eight men tumbling to the rocky bottom, each hitting the man who had just seconds ago been climbing below.
LITTER TEAMS WORK IN ROUND-ROBIN TANDEM
They ended up in a pile of bodies that continued to crush those on the bottom until those on top could extract themselves, broken bones and all. It was typical of the predicament in which many victims of wilderness mishaps find themselves: far from help, in hostile terrain at night with no moon with no direct communication to the local fire/rescue agencies (there was no cell phone service at the rescue site), exposed to the high-altitude cold, with critical injuries that would normally require immediate ALS treatment and transportation to a trauma center by helicopter. They were trapped under conditions that would severely delay medical help and might preclude helicopters from getting to the scene.
The captain of Light Force 82 (now assigned as Bottom Division supervisor) reported the situation to the IC, requested a “round robbin” of six litter teams and additional personnel and medical equipment. Having just rappelled down the narrow chute, he knew that only one litter team at a time could operate in the chimney-like space. It was going to require careful orchestration of the litter teams and rope teams to extract all the victims without getting rescuers seriously hurt or killed.
Back on top, Engine 82’s captain (designated as Topside Division supervisor), supervised a standard two-line lowering system (that had been put into the chute in addition to the original rappel line) and assigned a litter team to be lowered down to extract the first critically injured victim. The other incoming units reported to staging and were given operational assignments; an organized rescue structure quickly developed. As representatives from the USFS and Sheriff Department arrived, unified command was established among all three agencies.
Copter 16 reported that because of thick low clouds and the narrowness of the canyon, it would not be possible to conduct hoist rescues from the bottom of the waterfall without endangering the entire rescue operation. The cloud cover on the mountain was causing the copter’s strobe lights and spotlights to reflect back at the crew, and there simply wasn’t sufficient clearance in the slot canyon to compensate for the lack of visual references. However, the copter’s crew reported that it was possible to find a landing spot at a higher elevation, where the low clouds weren’t such an impediment. The IC directed Copter 16 to land at the closest helispot that would allow a safe touchdown to receive the first and most critical patients for medevac to a trauma center. The second copter would do the same, and the first two ground ambulances would be used to shuttle victims from the rescue site to the helispot.
FIREFIGHTERS AND PARAMEDICS RAPPEL TO THE SCENE
Within minutes, a group of firefighters and paramedics who rappelled on the first line were working on the victims at the bottom of the chute. When they arrived, USAR-1’s captain was assigned as Rescue Group supervisor.
By now, the first litter team was ready to be lowered into the canyon on the two-line system. Yet another two-line system was being set up to expedite the lowering and raising process. One system was used to lower a litter team; the other system was ready to lower the next litter team once the first team came out of the chute. This would eliminate the lag time it would take to change litter teams and rope teams to convert the raising system to a lowering system. Because of the varying steepness of the chute, which made it a mixed low-angle and high-angle evacuation, and its narrowness, which prevented the litter from being raised in a horizontal position, the litter had been rigged accordingly.
Once the first litter team was lowered to the bottom, the most critically injured victim was loaded and quickly packaged. Meanwhile, the topside personnel had converted the lowering system to a 3:1 “Z-rig” raising system, and once the victim was packaged and the litter team was ready, he was on his way back to the top with the original litter team. Once at the top, the victim was removed from the litter (but still secured to a backboard), placed on a gurney, rolled to the first ambulance, and driven to the first helicopter.
Meanwhile, the second litter team was already being lowered into the canyon for the next most critically injured soldier. He was packaged, raised to the top, transferred to the ambulance, and then to the first helicopter, which departed for the trauma center with the two most critical victims. Meanwhile, the original litter team had been lowered in once again to get the third victim.
This process was repeated for the next two victims, who were seriously injured. The second helicopter took them to the next closest trauma center, where they could be properly managed. By then, the first copter was returning to the scene, and the litter team had been lowered to extract the first of two “full traumatic arrest” victims. Working as quickly as possible under the extreme conditions, the soldier was packaged, raised to the top, and transferred to the first helicopter, which was waiting with blades still turning.
Finally, the sixth soldier (also in full traumatic arrest) was extracted and transferred to the second helicopter, which had just returned from the second trauma center. He was flown in with CPR and ALS intervention in progress.
At the end, all equipment and personnel were extracted in turn, which took another hour. After all the personnel were “rehabbed” and the equipment sorted and returned to the appropriate vehicle, the unified commanders conducted a debriefing with the personnel from all three agencies.
Aside from the obvious problems of inaccessible terrain, a steep and narrow chute, darkness compounded by low clouds that inhibited helicopter operations, a confined working area at the bottom of the chute, and multiple casualties with severe trauma, it was agreed that the rescue proceeded in a reasonably efficient manner. Most of the safety problems were properly addressed as they materialized, with the usual close calls from falling rocks kicked loose by rescuers and litter teams operating in a natural chimney that funneled the rockfall directly toward rescuers and victims (prompting some of the firefighters to use their bodies to shield helpless victims).
In terms of interagency cooperation, this incident is typical of the manner in which most technical search and rescue emergencies are managed in the Angeles National Forest and other mountainous areas of Los Angeles County. With respect for the high-angle rescue systems used to make access to and evacuate the victims of this tragic mishap, the operations emphasized the need for all first responders to be prepared to operate at full capacity with appropriate support by highly trained members of specialized units like USAR and rescue companies, mountain rescue teams, and fire/rescue helicopters. It also reinforced many of the concepts about high-angle rescue (and rescue in general).
The fact that all four of the most viable victims trapped deep within the mountains late at night were successfully rescued and delivered to trauma centers within three hours of the accident is remarkable in light of the challenges. It also demonstrates that an organized, multiagency response system, supported by specially trained technical search and rescue units, can provide the most appropriate rescue and EMS care even under the worst conditions. Finally, the lack of casualties among rescuers under conditions that certainly held the potential for serious rescuer injuries or even fatalities lends credence to the concepts of redundant safety and rescuer survival.
LARRY COLLINS is a 26-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD); is a captain, USAR specialist, and paramedic, and is assigned to Rescue Task Force 103 (including on the day of the JPL Incident), which responds to all technical rescues and multialarm fires across Los Angeles County (including rescues in train tunnels, caves, abandoned mines, and other underground environments). Collins is a search team manager for the LACoFD’s FEMA US&R Task Force (California US&R Task Force 2) and is assigned as a US&R specialist on the “Red” FEMA US&R Incident Support Team, with responses to the Oklahoma City bombing; the 9/11 Pentagon collapse; and hurricanes Frances, Ivan, Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. He sits on local, state, and national rescue and disaster planning committees and is the author of the book series Rescue: A Guide to Urban Search and Technical Rescue (www.technicalrescueops.com), published by Pennwell.