By Rita Reith
Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) Tactical Teams were called to assist the Zionsville Fire Department after they responded to the man’s fall inside the water tower–150 feet in the air.
Maintenance crews from Tank Industries Consulting (TIC) told firefighters that they had been on the tower all day performing routine inspection and maintenance checks for Citizens Energy. About 3:30 p.m., the male victim fell to the bottom of the tank and radioed for help. He told firefighters that he was climbing down into the tank and slipped off the ladder. He sustained nonlife-threatening injuries but was unable to extricate himself due to those injuries.
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IFD crews arrived on scene and were briefed by Zionsville Fire. A high-angle rope rescue strategy was immediately put in place. Using the 85-foot aerial ladder as an anchor point, crews from Stations 14 and 7 set the rope system in place with main and belay lines extending from the ground to top of the tower.
The extremely complicated and intricate system needed to mitigate the situation kept firefighters on point the entire evolution as continual adjustments were needed to maneuver the patient to the exterior. Supplemental systems were put in place on top of the tower to lower rescue personnel to the interior and then remove the victim and same rescue personnel from the interior.
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In conjunction with the mirrored skate system, smaller systems were also set to lower the victim in phases onto the primary main and belay lines. Buffeted by cold, driving rain and high winds, the rescuers told command that the difficulties faced at the top of the tower required them to make careful decisions about the process by which the victim would ultimately be rescued. The six IFD Firefighters and two TIC crew that assisted were exhausted, cold, soaked–and ultimately relieved–by the end of the incident.
Tactical 14 and 7 conducted rope training over the last tw days that mirrored this exact scenario.