Rescue Squad trains with new equipment
By Wes Wade | (email@example.com)
They had the equipment, but the standard instruction manual didn’t apply. Instead, Blount County Rescue Squad (BCRS) personnel spent the better part of a Saturday learning the ins and outs of the latest item in their tool kit.
It’s called an ID (Industrial Descender) and it’s used in low-angle rescue operations, explained Mark Walker, a Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad Lieutenant who served as an instructor during Saturday’s ID training. Walker, who recently signed on as a BCRS member as well, co-taught the class alongside Alcoa Fire Department Captain Tom Clark.
Walker explained that low-angle rescues, which require a rope system in order to transport a patient to safety, generally involve an incline of some kind. He pointed to rescues on the portion of U.S. Highway 129 known as “The Dragon” as a prime example. These often involve transporting a patient across steep embankments instead of vertical slopes.
While those in the BCRS are no stranger to the Dragon, they weren’t as familiar with the ID the department recently acquired. And, as BCRS Public Information Officer Laura Osgood explained, this latest addition to the equipment belt has great potential to save lives.
For one, the ID — a central device in this rope rescue pulley system — is much smaller and lighter than the “Z-rig” device it’s replacing. Instead of consisting of around eight pieces like the Z-rig, the ID is made of four. It’s also easier to use and comes with a much quicker setup time, which, when dealing with Dragon rescues, means a lot, Osgood said.
“Especially at a scene (like that) when time is critical,” Osgood said. “Response time can be slow ... to be able to set up a system like this and get them up in 5 to 10 minutes, it’s just critical — and you can easily add 10 to 15 minutes to that critical process (using a Z-rig). So when you’re trying to get them out in that golden hour this helps a lot.”
Clark added the ID also has an automatic locking feature, which allows for hands-free operation. Additionally, the ID is bidirectional, as opposed to the Z-rig, which required rescuers to stop and change out pieces if they suddenly needed to back down a hill.
After spending the morning in a classroom setting, rescue squad members received hands-on training outside Montgomery Ridge Intermediate School in Maryville. Using a hill at the front of the school, the 15 BCRS members in attendance ran through several rescue scenarios, taking on different roles as they went along.
And everyone appeared to be in agreement concerning the new device.
“This is 100 percent better (than before),” BCRS member Kathy Collins said. “It’s easier to set up, there’s less pieces, it’s lighter. The other stuff was very heavy.”
Yet mastering the equipment won’t come overnight, Walker said.
“One day covers the basics, that makes a team functional,” he said. “Proficiency will come through ongoing practice, which they’ll do.”
And they can always pick up some tips from Walker, who’s now a member of both the Knoxville and Blount County rescue squads, or a number of others in Blount and surrounding counties. Walker said this inter-departmental collaboration — something the late BCRS Assistant Chief John Yu worked tirelessly for — is important in many ways.
“The rescue squads in this area are part of the Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads (TARS),” Walker said. “And the nature of the agencies being a part of the TARS is to support each other: in training, in rescue ... to support our police and fire (agencies) as well.”
It’s akin to practicing for proficiency.
“This is a growing effort for the parties involved,” Walker said. “To strengthen our communities’ rescue efforts.”