~ What The Heck IS Collapse Rescue, Anyway? ~


Whenever I tell people that My Captain is an expert in Collapse Rescue, and they give me that vacant, polite nod of the head, I KNOW they have no idea what I’m talking about.

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Why should they?  Most people never have a need to be rescued in a collapse, whether it be from a trench, or a terrorist bombed building.  But let’s say for a second that you did.  Let’s say you were unfortunate enough to be in a bombed building, or a collapsed work trench.  What the heck would you do?

Well, first you would pee yourself.

THEN, you would collect your wits and call 911.  The person on that end of the phone would then pee THEMSELVES, and then they would begin the dispatch, which would ultimately end up in someone deciding the resources required were more than your average fire crew.  If the dispatcher decides it warrants a collapse team, they would activate the Special Operations Technical Rescue Team…. or TRT.

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The TRT here in Montgomery County, Maryland, is the same team that handles Ropes (Also called “High Angle Rescue”),  Confined Space, and Structural Collapse rescue as well as the Trench Rescues.   Swift Water and Hazardous Material Rescue fall under a different part of the Special Ops umbrella.

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We’re lucky here in Montgomery County, because our County TRT has many of the same rescuers and technicians who are on the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Team, (Maryland Task Force 1).  Basically, because we live where we live, and MD Task Force 1 is centralized here, we get the cream of the crop running to our aid.

And seeing as how Washington D.C. (AKA, the huge freaking political target) is so nearby, it’s probably a good thing…..

The team trains often.  Not as often as My Captain would like, but there is only so much time in a day, and only so many dollars in a budget. So they do the best they can.

Training takes many forms.  Last week, the team worked on trench collapse at the National Institute for Standards and Technology campus.  First, the TRT came in and used a back hoe to dig a hole, and then simulate a trench collapse.

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After that is in, they place ground pads all around the trench to avoid causing further cave-ins.  It disperses the weight of footsteps around the compromised soil.

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Now it is time to shore up the walls.  They do this with rawthar expensive shore forms made of Norway Fir plywood and Kevlar.  The point of the Kevlar is to make it really strong.  You don’t want to be in the middle of a rescue and have your shores fail.  That would fall under the BAD category.

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They support the rawthar expensive shores with aluminum struts, which are air pressure forced, and then collared for even better tightness.

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Once those are all in place, and only then, can our guys descend safely into the trench to perform a rescue.

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Notice the yellow tube…that is sending air down into the space.

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Helpful to all involved.  The team monitors the air to make sure there are not excessive gasses below. And sometimes they heat the air if it is a cold day and the patient is buried in cold ground.  Heck, even if it is a warm day, and the victim is buried in cold ground, they could become hypothermic because the soil is 50 degrees.

They think of everything, these guys.

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All of this has to happen as quickly as possible, obviously, but it takes hours to get it done, and done safely so we don’t accrue even more casualties.  Hence the training.

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And thank God they do it!!!




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