Most people probably associate firefighter training with burning buildings and high-pressure water hoses dispensing unending supplies of water. Rescue scenarios that come to mind may resemble saving families from burning homes and bringing a treed animal back down to safety.
For the last five years, the Daviess County Fire Department has been training for a different type of scenario. In an agreement with Big Rivers Electric Corporation in Centertown, Ky, members of the DCFD spend two 12-hour days (on their off days) at least once a year learning High Angle Rope Rescue (HARR).
“There are so many facets to firefighting that people don’t realize,” said Eric Coleman, DCFD assistant fire chief. “You would probably be amazed at the amount of training we do.”
Per the agreement, Big Rivers provides the necessary training and equipment for the department, while the DCFD agrees to respond to Big Rivers if a need arises.
Currently, 17 of the DCFD’s 29 firefighters have completed the 40-hour course, covering everything from ascending and descending, to properly tying ropes together, to transporting patients from an elevated position and repelling down with them.
Firefighters run through scenarios such as rescuing someone trapped in a confined space, someone who has experienced a medical emergency or has incurred a traumatic injury at the top of the (630 ft. tall) smokestack.
The ultimate goal is to gain access to someone from an elevated position and get them back to ground level so they may be transported for medical services. Although Centertown and the DCFD have yet to encounter such an emergency, Sebree has. For that reason, Coleman believes it is essential that his guys train for the most challenging tasks.
“We always train the most complex way to do things — but we look for the simplest solution to the rescue,” Coleman said.
While they all “hope there’s never an emergency,” many of the firefighters draw an additional skill-set, and even some enjoyment, from rope training.
Sam Henderson has been a firefighter/EMT for the past nine years and a high angle technician for the last five.
“The amount of things you can do with ropes as a firefighter is unbelievable,” Henderson said. “You learn to work with your guys — there is a lot of communication that goes into this.”
The new DCFD station has been designed with this training in mind. The firehouse has been designed with anchor points to allow for in-house training for rope rescue.
Ultimately, the Big Rivers partnership is what allows the DCFD to continue increasing their rope rescue skills.
“It’s (the training) really expensive — We wouldn’t get to do what we do to the level we do it if it wasn’t for Big Rivers,” Coleman said.