Theme Park Gives Rescue Trainers a Challenge

DOSWELL, Va. — Petersburg firefighter Kevin Roberts slowly rappelled down the roller coaster’s support structure toward the mannequin hanging from a safety harness about 20 feet above the still pond.

Using a mechanical system, Roberts and other members of the Crater Regional Technical Rescue Team pulled the 185-pound dummy to safety.

The team, which consists of fire and emergency medical service personnel from the cities of Hopewell, Petersburg and Colonial Heights; Prince George County; and Fort Lee, then lowered Roberts and the victim along a trackline to shore.

From start to finish, it took them less than two hours Monday morning to complete the first of eight simulated rescues during the four-day 2012 Rescue Challenge.

The concept of this high-angle rope rescue simulation was simple: A maintenance worker on the Anaconda roller coaster at Kings Dominion suffered a medical emergency and fell from the structure. But the difficulty was executing a safe rescue for the responders and the “victim.”

“It challenges each team, puts them in different scenarios, one they haven’t seen before and maybe haven’t been able to practice, to allow them the opportunity to determine, ‘What would I do if this happened in my jurisdiction?'” said Hanover Fire and EMS Battalion Chief Gregory Martin.

The Rescue Challenge has been held in various locations across the state since its inception in 1995. It presents scenarios to these specialized rescue teams that they might not see on a day-to-day basis.

Members of technical rescue teams are trained to operate in such situations as confined spaces, heavy extrications and high-angle rope rescues.

This year’s event centered on these types of situations — a trench rescue at the Vulcan Materials rock quarry, extricating a victim from an overturned dump truck at the Container First Services landfill and searching for victims of a parking deck collapse, to name a few.

Hosting the training exercises is a win-win situation for the rescuers and the site, said Gene Petriello, communications manager with Kings Dominion.

“Safety is our top priority here. It always has been and always will be,” he said.

Simulations allow the emergency responders to refine their skills and build cohesion as a team.

“We’re not under the pressure of actually conducting a real live rescue,” said Petersburg firefighter Tommy Kozak. “We can fine-tune our techniques, work on our communication skills (and) work better as an overall team.”

The benefits of this training exercise go deeper than the hands-on learning experience. This year, it brings together nine technical rescue teams representing 23 agencies across Virginia and Maryland to network and share ideas.

“We get to learn from each other,” said Frankie Tanner, assistant chief for Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services. “Plus, the different scenarios that we have are more or less realistic types of situations. We don’t get that every day.”

No posts to display