CLAYMONT (DE) COLLAPSE RESCUE TRUCK

CLAYMONT (DE) COLLAPSE RESCUE TRUCK

BY JOHN J. O`CONNELL, FIREFIGHTER, CITY OF NEW YORK (NY) FIRE DEPARTMENT; AND MIKE MOORE, TRAINING OFFICER, CLAYMONT (DE) FIRE COMPANY

The Claymont (DE) Fire Company, located in northern Delaware, provides first-responder service to a nine-square-mile area with 43,000 inhabitants. The area includes residences and has commercial, transportation (Interstate 95), and heavy industry hazards. The combination company is predominantly volunteer and performs more than 3,600 runs annually–mostly fire and EMS calls–which are handled by two facilities. Its apparatus includes three basic life support ambulances, five engines, one ladder, one marine rescue, one heavy rescue, and a recently acquired collapse rescue vehicle.

The department determined in early 1995 that in addition to its normal fire and rescue response, it needed specialized training and equipment to respond to and successfully handle partial or total structural work and trench collapses. Chief Bill Kelly and Deputy Chief Jack Anderson obtained the necessary specialized tools and equipment and the proper rescue training from Collapse Rescue Systems, Inc. of Montgomery, New York, an urban search and rescue training organization.

Claymont Fire Company Training Officer Mike Moore coordinated the training, which was designed to allow personnel to operate safely and properly with structural collapse and rescue shoring. Many company members received intensive hands-on structural collapse training, preparing them for possible response to a major incident.

Collapse Rescue Systems personnel also assisted in determining, prioritizing, and pricing the equipment needed for collapse rescue. Thanks to special funding from the industrial community, many tools were obtained without fire company funds. Most but not all of the tools needed were procured. The collapse rescue team was in service by the fall of 1995.

Due to the unusually heavy snow accumulation that winter, the team was called to stabilize structures and search for occupants in roof and structure collapses. One involved the collapse of a 50-foot by 50-foot section of a bookstore roof; the store employees had gotten out of the building before the collapse. At an enclosed walkway roof collapse, it was believed that there were trapped victims, but none were found. Other incidents included vehicle collisions involving victim rescue and structure stabilization.

According to the response plan, the heavy rescue unit would carry some lumber. An additional supply would be left at the station to be loaded on a local towing company`s rolloff truck, and more would be delivered by a local lumberyard, if needed. However, the unit decided that an in-house supply and delivery system would be better and more efficient than outside agencies and began considering what type of vehicle would be appropriate.

The unit pondered using a trailer but thought it unsuitable for use in inclement weather. A pod unit on a rolloff truck was discussed, but it had no apparent advantage, and there was no other use for the vehicle.

The company decided on a delivery truck with a load rating sufficient to transport the numerous tools and lumber for an extensive collapse operation. In February 1996, the company acquired a used 1980 Ford furniture delivery truck with a 25-foot cargo box and hydraulic lift gate. Over the next few months, members refurbished the vehicle–cleaning and rewiring it and creating work and storage space. The truck was repainted and placed in service in May 1996. The members` work and the cooperation of local industries paid off.

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(Top) The 1980 Ford furniture delivery truck, nicknamed “Big Blue,” when purchased. (Bottom) The truck after renovation, adaptation, and placement in service. (Photos by author.)

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(Top) The collapse unit and the heavy rescue unit. Both rigs respond to collapse incidents. (Bottom left) Rear view of truck showing hydraulic lift gate, shoring lumber, and trench panels carried. (Bottom right) Some hand tools carried are secured so they won`t move around during response.

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