Commentary

May 16, 2014

Specialized training, specialized equipment, specialized personnel – The Big Three

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Jacob McAfee
Air Force Plant 42, assistant fire chief

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PALMDALE, Calif.-When you think of the firefighting profession the first thing that comes to most minds is fire, but what you may not know is that today, more than ever, the fire service provides a large spectrum of other services the average person does not even realize.

Air Force Plant 42 Fire and Emergency Services provides medical responses, hazardous conditions responses and fire responses, as well as a wide range of technical rescue services.

Technical rescues typically include confined space rescue, high angle rescue, low angle rescue, swift water rescue, urban search and rescue operations and trench rescues.

To be proficient performing technical rescue operations requires specialized training, specialized equipment and specialized personnel or the “big three.” To maintain proficiency in performing technical rescue operations, firefighters at Plant 42 dedicated two full weeks in April to sharpening those skills specifically in trench and excavation rescues.

Now, more than ever you, see a large number of homes being built, laying of pipe lines and the removal and replacement of underground storage tanks. This all requires opening trenches and excavations, and with more than 100 trench operation-related fatalities in the United States each year, it was clear that keeping these skills sharp was key to saving lives.
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During the intense two-week training, the firefighters had the opportunity to use a wide variety of tools not so common to your typical fire department response. Some of the specialized equipment that was utilized consisted of pneumatic air shores or struts that are used to transfer forces back into the trench wall to prevent collapse; low pressure air bags that provide lifting capacities up to six feet tall; air monitoring equipment that measures the concentration of a gas or vapor in air; ladders; paneling used as protective systems; various types of hardware and software. Each firefighter had the opportunity to operate within the incident command system, work with specialized tools, install protective systems inside of an eight-foot deep by eight-foot long straight wall trench as well as learn and demonstrate advanced skills at the technician level in an intersecting “T” trench.

By completing this technical training, constantly evaluating the “big three,” and keeping skills sharp, ensures Plant 42 is ready and able to protect lives, property and environment.




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