Fire officials realized there were issues in these categories after viewing response capabilities. They did not have appropriate equipment.
Due to experiences with skydivers, staff was better prepared to deal with high angle. Since Rockmart has had close encounters with tornadoes, concern was readiness for a trench rescue or structural collapse.
Chief Todd Queen said the feeling was that firefighters were not adequately prepared for trench rescue.
“We knew we could not have a full team with specialized vehicles, but we could initially intervene to handle small situations and begin operations in a larger emergency until help arrived,” he said.
Meanwhile, an application was submitted to GEMA, which awarded $86,000 to the local department. The money provided funds for purchase of equipment to be used for response training in high angle and trench rescue situations.
“We have received about 99 percent of the needed equipment,” Queen said. “We are now ready to train our people.
The mission is to do initial operations, sizing the situation, how bad, equipment needed and how to begin. The idea is to be able to operate independently for two hours before sufficient resources are at the scene.
This will be the focus of a week’s training class that will begin on May 9. Scheduled to attend are Rockmart staff, firefighters from Cedartown Fire Rescue and the special response team from Redmond EMS.
Plans are to have about 25 people learn all aspects of trench rescue and the dangers associated with it.
On Friday, May 13, the class will culminate with an actual rescue scenario. A mannequin will be placed in a trench dug on the grounds of the Rockmart Fire Department.
An incident commander will be selected and will execute the rescue. Instructors will also critique each participant.
Queen said national statistics reveal that more than 100 people die and many others are injured annually in trench collapses.
Responders who are not trained properly, he said, can be added to these numbers. “We don’t want that to happen here. The first instinct is to jump into the trench and start digging. This is not the appropriate way to rescue someone.”
Chief Queen pointed out that the average weight of a cubic foot of soil in Polk is 100 pound and a cubic yard weighs about a ton.
“Our goal is to have participants trained to an operations level,” he said. “As first responders, we do not want to stand and watch. We want to stabilize the situation so that we can assist the patient and help get him out.”
Randall Chupp, training officer, emphasized that Rockmart has an aging water system and construction sites are places where trench rescue could be needed.
“This class will allow us to intervene in a large scale incident which would take more people than we have available,” he said. “However, we could begin setting up the rescue operation so that when help arrives they can filter into what we are doing.”
The assistance he referenced is the Georgia Search and Rescue (GSAR) team for Northwest Georgia, which is based in Calhoun. Chris Tant, Joey Puckett and Wayne Dunn, Rockmart, are members of this team.