Tech rescue rant…

Ok, let’s talk technical rescue for a minute.  High risk/low frequency. 

 Will you get one in your town?  Yes.

Will you be able to identify it for what it is?  Probably not.

Will you get hurt at this incident?  If you’re lucky, yes.  If unlucky, you’ll die.

I’m not good at drama, that’s as close as I can get.  My gripe and or whininess stems from training with people FOR YEARS and the minute they get a technical rescue they forget most of their training.  I don’t care if you can tie a knot.  I don’t care if you know a good way to attempt the rescue safely.  I do care that you at least give a crap about your own safety and wear your damn safety equipment the same way you do EVERY TIME WE TRAIN.

Fire helmets are not for tech rescue they are bulky and extremely top heavy, your neck muscles wear out fast if you are not standing upright the entire time.  Hell, your neck gets tired if you ARE standing up.  When you are in a hole, on a wall or have climbed into some odd place you want a lighter helmet, and my department has them available.  Yes, my favorite line from guys is “I’m a firefighter, I wear a fire helmet”  Awesome, go over there, distract the cameras by modeling your helmet and wait for a fire to break out near here, because you aren’t going anywhere till this job is done.

Command staff, do me this one little favor; TAKE COMMAND!  That’s right, you spent half of your lifetime to get that white coat, now use it.  You know your men.  You know better than to send the best guy over the edge leaving you with second best to get him and the victim out.  You know better than to leave your guys in a hole for 2 hours while 20 guys wait around the top.  Make it happen.  Rotate your men, a decent technician will not quit until forced to. 

What about this zone thing, what is it called.  Oh yeah!  Hot, Warm, Cold.  Get the men/women back.  They are professionals, they can handle it.  The crew should not look like a bunch of rubber-neckers that stopped and got out of their cars to stare.  Things need to get done, lots of things.

OK, let me stop and move onto something informative. 

 Thanks to Wikipedia we have this: 

Technical rescue refers to those aspects of saving life or property that employ the use of tools and skills that exceed those normally reserved for fire fighting, medical emergency, and rescue. These disciplines include rope rescue, swiftwater rescue, confined space rescue, ski rescue, cave rescue, trench/excavation rescue, and building collapse rescue, among others… Often involving multiple jurisdictions.

Hmmm, sounds bad. Lets see the numbers here.  Are you trained to the “would be rescuer” standard or “professional rescuer”?

Confined space 60% of deaths were “would be rescuers”.

Swift water 50% “would be rescuer”

Trench 65% “would be rescuer”

Not to beat history to death but from Mexico City in 1985 on through Oklahoma city 1995 and through more “modern” times like Katrina, “would be rescuers” die frequently at technical rescue operations because they don’t know the dangers.

So I wonder, if you are a “professional rescuer” shouldn’t you act like it?  Sure you’re a macho tough guy, but really? Are you more concerned about “saving” a dead body than protecting your own life?

 60% of  “would be rescuers” are killed in technical rescue operations.  Don’t you owe it to your family or co-workers to at least know when to set the brakeand wait for the knowledgeable guys to show up?  Even if they SUCK to deal with, you live and get to continue working.  Tough guy get’s to show off, and everybody gets to go home.

Fires= go fast

Tech rescue= wait a minute…

Stay safe.


  • Karsten Nelson says:

    It is nice to hear another brother sing’n with the choir!!! Just wish the audience would listen a little closer.

  • Anchorpoint1, great thread. I couldn’t agree any more with your musings. I thinks it’s sad to consistently hear rants like yours, no matter what part of the country you may be in.

    I second your call for leaders to LEAD. Company officers, do the right thing for your crew. Captains and Batt Chiefs, you have the opportunity and authority to change the Incident Action Plan and correct the direction the incident is taking, if modifications need to be made. Get the right people in place to perform the job. Move staff in dangerous positions away and to safer locations. Not sure you need to make changes? Nothing stops you from calling in the rescue company and asking for an evaluation.

    Oh, and why should the red and white helmeted amongst us take the whipping? Whatever happened to the right of the firefighter/probie/jake/engineer, other black helmeted (Ahem! leather, of course) personnel, etc. to step up and question the safety of a given order? Firefighters, if the action seems unsafe, point this out and request clarification of the order or new orders.

    You can be one of those statistics Anchorpoint1 stated or you can go back to the house, safe and sound. The choice is yours. Which choice will you make?

  • LadderJack says:

    You bring up a great point about leaders need to lead. The majority of all the Tech Rescue incidents that I have been involved in have either been successful because of strong leadership, or have been borderline failures because of poor leadeship. One thing that you mention, I find completely UNACCEPTABLE, is how anyone can allow any rescuer to be in a hole for 2 hours. How can anyone be effective after that long. The average permissible limits for both Confined Spaces and Trenches usually hover around the 20 minute mark. With this timeframe, a rescuer has the opportunity to get the ball at least rolling, or it allows a new rescuer to get his chance in the hole to get it going. The time for egos is in the firehouse, not at the incident scene. Another problem I usually see are all the “Non-Trained” guys mulling around. They usually get in the way, and clog up the works. If you don’t know what is going on, you should probably step back. That goes just as well to the “Trained” guys as well. You become more of a liability if you stand there and do nothing, than if you walk away, and be an adult about it and recognize your weakness. It’s okay, really it is. My favorite, though (not to get on the soap box), is when the “Non-trained” guys want to beat their chests thru a tech rescue call, and not even call for the “Trained” guys to come. I know I hear that over the radio more times than I hear the “Trained” guys going. I think this falls back to leadership, and holding guys accountable for their actions. It also falls back to training. If you at least train the non-tech rescue guys to recognize what one of these incidents look like, maybe we can get them to call for the proper help. Firefighters are creatures of service, they will always revert back to one thing when in doubt…Help Others. Unfortunately, this way of thinking still accounts for 60% of would-be rescuers getting killed every year. Great thread, thanks for bringing this issue up.

  • Wayne Benner says:

    If not trained to participate in a tech rescue the you SHALL stand back and assist those who can. And by can I mean someone who is a GREAT swimmer not 1/2 great, some one who knows how to shore a trench or tie a proper rigging system. Not all firefighters can do every task. So if a department says they are Tech Rescue I beg to differ, Only some of their members are tech at best. Its no different then Truckie, Engine, Rescue work some are better then others and it simpliflies things if we execel at some then be par at all.

    Great Article

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