TVFR, Clackamas Fire join in simulated crane and confined space rescues

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - As part of a rescue training session, crews from Clackamas Fire and Tualatin Valley Fire and Recue lowered a dummy from the top of a tower crane at the LOT site. They are called “tower cranes” for a reason.

Looking up at one of the two cranes stationed at the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership construction site Saturday, Clackamas Fire Battalion Chief Brian Rooney admitted that his crew had a daunting task ahead.

“I know our ladder truck wouldn’t reach up,” Rooney said. “It’s probably about 125 feet up there.”

As he spoke, Rooney was preparing for a simulated rope rescue at the top of the crane — a joint effort by Clackamas Fire District 1 and Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue. The crane rescue was part of a two-pronged training seminar at the LOT site, with a “confined space” rescue simulation scheduled for later in the day.

The idea, according to Rooney, was to bring some real world flavor into the training for both departments.

“We have technical rescue teams from each department,” Rooney said. “These teams are very involved, they train on a weekly basis on their different disciplines. So wherever we have something like this — real world — we try to take advantage of it.”

In the crane scenario, the operator had fallen ill, suffering from a heart attack or some other malady. With the sick operator stuck 125 feet above the ground, the rescue workers were left with just two options.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - A rescue crew worked its way up to the top of the crane to rescue the dummy at the top. In this scenario, the patient was suffering from an illness and couldn't get down without assistance.

“It comes down to a helicopter or rope rescue,” Rooney said. “And rope rescue is much safer and efficient.”

Still, Rooney said a rope rescue was “quite an operation,” and that proved true as the crews hurried to set up a pulley system and carry the ropes to the top of the crane. Once the ropes were set up and a basket was in place, the “patient” could be lowered to the ground.

“What always gets me on the rope rescues is how long they take,” Rooney said. “Any of these technical rescues, they’re low-frequency and high-hazard for everyone involved, so we don’t run these very often. When you do, they’re incredibly dangerous and incredibly technical.”

The operation went by without a hitch on Saturday, however, and later that afternoon the crews moved on to a simulated confined space rescue.

“Confined space stuff is all around us,” Rooney said. “Confined spaces are basically places that are not designed for continuous occupancy. You can have gas imbalance that is not going to support life.

“That’s another one that’s highly technical and highly dangerous for us.”

Rooney compared the operation to entering a tank, with one tight entrance space. At times, such rescues involve dragging a victim through sewer pipes toward safety.

The common denominator with both rope and confined-space rescues is that time is secondary to safety.

“Our objective is to get this person safely down to the ground,” Rooney said. “What time in the real world doesn’t really interest us — the most important thing is doing it safely and learning from each other.”

Last Saturday’s training exercise was the second of three sessions. The final drills will take place this Saturday.

By Patrick Malee
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by: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - The rescue crews engineered a pully system from the ground to bring the rescue basket up to the top of the crane.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - The rescue training session provided a chance for crews from Clackamas Fire and TVFR to work together and share tips on how best to approach such events.

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