Firefighters’ rescue drill at Swedish in Issaquah

Firefighters practice wilderness, building rescues at Swedish/Issaquah

July 24, 2012

By Katie Larsen

Eastside Fire & Rescue firefighters strap a rescue dummy into a gurney during rope rescue drills July 16 at Swedish/Issaquah. By Katie Larsen

Eastside Fire & Rescue held a rope rescue drill July 16 at Swedish/Issaquah.

About 30 firefighters came together to practice a rescue of a dummy from a staircase on one roof, across to another building and down to the ground on the other side.

The lead instructor, Lt. Mark Vetter, said the exercise is one of the numerous annual drills the department has but the first held at the Swedish hospital campus. Vetter coordinates all the rope trainings and techniques. He recently went to Las Vegas for a five-day training exercise to help his team.

“It’s an opportunity to get everyone to practice our rescue techniques,” he said.

The drill was set up to be more of a rope challenge course for the team to use its training and figure out how to proceed and communicate with each other. It is a simulation of a pick-off, or rescuing a person from a building or mountain.

Wooden tripods were made by the team to tether the ropes to the building. The ropes then transported the dummy across to the adjacent building.

“Technical rescue response drains two-thirds of the department, especially with something like this,” Vetter said.

He said the department sees more water rescues than building incidents, but ropes are still used in water situations.

EFR Deputy Chief of Operations Greg Tryon said the agency receives four to five calls a year for technical rescues, including rope, trench and confined-space rescues. “We are very appreciative to Swedish hospital for having us,” he said.

As for water rescues, firefighters can respond to seven or eight a year.

“These are very technical skills these guys are using,” Tryon said. “Having an opportunity at the hospital simulates a wilderness environment — space between the building roofs — and industrial accident — caught in the stairwell.”

Tryon said it is like an obstacle course out there, with five areas of firefighters working with many skills within each group. Each team has a team leader to coordinate with the commander who then relays information to the other teams.

“It’s very communication intensive,” Tryon said. “You have to be safe while doing dangerous things.”


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