Friday, November 29, 2013
When firefighters respond to an emergency the first thing they want to do is jump in and help.
But if the emergency involves a person trapped in a trench that has collapsed or in a confined space, or there is a HazMat issue, legally only firefighters trained for such emergencies can take part in rescues.
“You run a very high risk of the people you put in there to do the rescue being a victim themselves,” said Midway Fire Rescue Chief Doug Eggiman.
A department can be fined by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration for putting the firefighters in an unsafe situation.
That’s why Georgetown County started a Technical Rescue Team in 2010.
Made up of about 20 firefighters from Midway and the county’s department, the Technical Rescue Team specializes in rope rescues, collapses, wilderness search and rescue, HazMat situations, trench rescues and confined space rescues.
Team membership is strictly voluntary, and firefighters go through a selection process.
“We want to make sure we’re putting the appropriate people on the team,” Eggiman said.
The training is above and beyond what is required by the county departments.
“It definitely adds to their skill level,” Eggiman said.
It’s also good for different departments to train together so firefighters can get to know each other and other departments’ procedures, the chief added.
Shortly after being created, the county’s Technical Rescue Team extracted a man who was trapped in 50-foot hole in a pile of sand at the steam plant off Pennyroyal Road in Georgetown. The man was driving a tractor on the pile and it sunk in a soft spot.
Team members crawled out on a catwalk over the pile, lowered a harness to the man and pulled him to safety.
If the county hadn’t had its own team and had to wait for the regional Technical Rescue Team to respond from Myrtle Beach, or the state Technical Rescue Team from Columbia, the man may not have survived.
“Sometimes time can be of the essence,” Eggiman said.
The county’s Technical Rescue Team was called out on Tuesday night for a report of an explosion and a man trapped in an elevator shaft at 3V Chemical, but didn’t end up being involved in the rescue.
Midway is always involved with training, including a recent joint exercise on wildfire fighting with Horry County.