TRAINING BENEFITS EVIDENT IN SUCCESSFUL HIGH-ANGLE RESCUE

TRAINING BENEFITS EVIDENT IN SUCCESSFUL HIGH-ANGLE RESCUE

BY DAVID J. REIMER, SR.

Just after 1800 hours on July 10, 1996, the Kutztown (PA) Fire Department, Kutztown Area Transport Service ambulance, and Northeastern Berks ALS (advanced life support) squad were dispatched by the Berks County Communications Center to a report of a cry for help coming from an abandoned stone quarry two miles north of Kutztown in Maxatawny Township.

THE RESPONSE

At 1810 hours, Kutztown Fire Chief Robert Hauck arrived on the scene and assumed command. From atop the east side quarry wall, he saw a male in his late teens lying on the rocky, brush-covered northside ledge approximately 60 feet below. Apparently, the youth had been scaling the wall alone at around 1700 hours when he lost his grip and fell approximately 25 feet to where he was lying and calling for help.

EMS arrived on the scene at 1811 hours and requested that a Medevac unit be placed on standby. After assessing the victim`s injuries and taking into consideration the extended extrication time, the Medevac was requested to respond to the scene.

THE RESCUE OPERATION

At 1812 hours, Kutztown`s rescue, engine, and Deputy Chief/EMT Bryan Keller arrived. Rescuers tied off their 58- and 12-inch static kernmantle ropes, using a figure-eight follow-through knot, to the one and only stationary anchor point–a boulder atop the wall in the northeast corner of the quarry. They proceeded to gear up for the descent to the patient.

At 1825 hours, Keller descended to assess the patient and assisted in determining the best method for extricating him from the quarry. Paramedic Paul Muzopappa descended after Keller. Muzopappa, off-duty from his paramedic position with an ambulance service, was in the area when the call was dispatched and responded directly to the scene to assist. A trauma bag, oxygen, and advanced life support supplies were also sent down by rope.

Muzopappa and Keller administered oxygen, began an IV, and splinted the patient`s left leg, which had an open fracture below the knee. The victim`s other injuries included numerous superficial lacerations, bruises, and brush burns acquired as he fell against the rocky wall. The patient was conscious, alert, and oriented throughout the entire rescue.

While patient care was in progress, Chief Hauck requested that a boat be dispatched to the scene to assist in extricating the patient from the quarry. Since the rocky ledge is along the north and east walls only, it was determined that it would be safer to lower the patient 50 feet to the water`s edge and then transport him across by boat to the southwest corner, where an access road met the water, than to raise the patient 60 feet up and over the already loose and unstable rock wall. Fire Captain Eric Diehl descended to the ledge at 1846 hours.

Moments later, the Northeastern Berks Regional Police Department search and rescue boat–a 14-foot converted pleasure boat donated by a resident–arrived. The boat entered the water at 1856 hours with the helicopter flight crew onboard. The rescuers packaged the patient in the stokes basket and lowered the basket approximately 50 feet down a steep bank to the water. Diehl descended ahead of the basket and helped guide it down from the ledge. At 1907 hours, the patient was loaded aboard the boat and transported to the opposite side of the quarry, where he was off-loaded and then airlifted to the Lehigh Valley Hospital Center, a Level 1 Trauma Center near Allentown, Pennsylvania, and the base hospital for the Medevac helicopter.

The police boat then made a return trip to the northeast ledge to pick up and transport the rescue personnel to shore. All equipment was secured. Units were available at 1945 hours. After a short stay in the hospital, the youth was released and is doing fine.

LESSONS LEARNED AND REINFORCED

The key to our department`s overall operation is training. We hold weekly training sessions in a variety of areas, including hydrant setup, advancing hoselines, ladder operations and ventilation, vehicle rescue, confined-space operations, and rappelling.

Generally speaking, at least one EMT should be on the heavy rescue when the truck is assigned to a rescue call. It is extremely important to have as many qualified medical personnel as possible trained in all types of rescue operations so they can be in the front line of the rescue at all times and relay patient information to the medics who are not on the scene.

Another important aspect in any rescue such as that described here is that direct communication among fire, EMS, and police personnel can be difficult when all three operate on different bands. Here in Berks County, most fire departments operate on low-band frequencies, whereas EMS and police operate on high-band frequencies. When a firefighter/EMT is in the front line of a rescue, it is important he have the proper radio so he can communicate directly instead of having to relay information through two or three individuals. n

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(Top) Deputy Chief/EMT Bryan Keller and Engineer Dallas Herber loop ropes around a large boulder atop the quarry wall, the only anchor point available, as Paramedic Paul Muzopappa dons a harness. (Bottom) Keller finishes tying off to the boulder. Captain Eric Diehl and Herber prepare for their next move. A stokes basket, long board, and cervical immobilization device lie ready. (Photos by author.)

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(Top) Keller descends into the quarry and (middle) attends to the victim in the brush, which contains poison ivy. The teen suffered an open leg fracture and numerous lacerations. (Bottom) Muzopappa descends into the quarry to assist Keller.

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(Top) Diehl descends into the quarry as Keller guides him. (Middle) Muzopappa begins an IV, (bottom) then adjusts the collar on the victim and administers oxygen.

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(Top) Keller, Diehl, and Muzopappa secure the victim, fully immobilized on a long board, in the stokes basket. (Middle) Rescuers prepare to lower the stokes basket down a steep slope about 50 feet to the police. Keller secures the harness and ropes to the basket. Diehl prepares to lower himself ahead of the stokes. (Bottom) He guides the stokes basket down from the ledge to the police boat, where a paramedic and the flight nurse await.

DAVID J. REIMER, SR., a 15-year veteran of the fire service, is a volunteer firefighter/EMT with the Kutztown (PA) Fire Department in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and an award-winning freelance photojournalist.

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