10/26/05 — City firefighters learn how to save trench collapse victims

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City firefighters learn how to save trench collapse victims

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on October 26, 2005 1:52 PM

Goldsboro firefighters are learning how to rescue victims from collapsed trenches.

New construction in the city and county is making knowing how to extricate victims safely from under piles of dirt more than just a nice skill to have, Assistant Fire Chief Lisa Johnson said.

"We need this training," she said.

Last year, the entire department learned the basics at the awareness level. Last week's course was designed to train 12 firefighters on how to teach the next level to other firefighters.

Mrs. Johnson, the training chief, explained that the departmental goal was to have a firefighter on each shift trained to the highest, or technician, level so that the Fire Department can respond to emergencies. The training also should ensure each firefighter's safety.

"If we have a situation we can't handle, we have outside resources we can contact," she said.

The week-long class followed a trench cave-in last year during a construction project on North Berkeley Boulevard. The victim was rescued, but a construction worker was killed and another was seriously injured June 7 in a cave-in in Pikeville.

Gene Gladin, a representative from the Office of the State Fire Marshal, taught the class with assistance from two T.A. Loving Co. employees and four New Bern firefighters, who brought a truck full of special equipment.

"We need to be educated on how dangerous this is," Mrs. Johnson said.

When a cave-in occurs, she said there was a 50-50 chance of a secondary cave-in.

Mrs. Johnson said she also wants to alert the community about the dangers of cave-ins so that no one makes the wrong type of rescue attempt. Many collapses go unreported, she said, because the victims got out.

The training was put together by Wayne Community College, which donated about $3,000 in lumber props.

The New Bern firefighters brought specialized rescue equipment called air shores that cost about $1,000 each. The Goldsboro department does not have any, but Mrs. Johnson said they can be obtained through federal Department of Homeland Security grants. She said air shores shorten the time needed to rescue victims. She said she hopes they will be added to the department budget.

Calvin Bishop, a Fayetteville Fire Department battalion chief, explained that North Carolina has regional teams that respond to hazardous materials problems but does not have a comprehensive plan for emergencies like building collapses or trench rescues. Now the state has committed resources, Bishop said, to have these teams for those emergencies.

The firefighters spent a day in the classroom and then worked four days doing practical exercises. On the final day, they went through a full rescue from finding the emergency, to making assignments, to setting up a technique to remove the victim. A mannequin was used in the class.

"It's very labor intensive," Mrs. Johnson said. "The guys are very dedicated. They went the extra mile. Fighting fires is their job, but it's not everything on their plate."