December 24, 2009

Smalls Falls Training observations by FSAR member Ben

Smalls Falls Training
With the recent construction on route 4, we as rescue personal now have a new set of challenges that present to us at the Smalls Falls recreational area, a vehicle in the water. With the removal of the legendary “Rangeley S-Curves”, the step slope that now towers over the beautiful and legendary falls presents now with a large downward slope, giving the unsuspecting motorist the positional to gather speed, and given the right winter weather, a slip roadway that may make for a ramp it you will, that can lead them over the guard rail into the top of the falls. With the climate changes that seem to take place in this area, especially on the top of the hill, a driver who was driving in the rain or snow could come upon a black ice situation. At the bottom of the slope, there is a small opening that invites a speeding car or an 18 wheeler to bypass the beginning of the guard rail and put them at the top of the falls. During an early spring defrost, or large rain dump the waters could overflow the bank and make for an even more dangerous situation for patient and rescue personal.

Recently members of FSAR, Rangeley Fire and Rescue, Phillips Fire Department, Strong Fire Department, and NorthStar Emergency Medical Services spent the day under the skilled and watchful eye of Dennis Kerrigan (DK) who instructed us on how to be prepared and reminded us of the old saying, “go slow to go fast”, and “go home to rescue another day”. At the beginning of the day, the group of 25 personal or so, talked about how the new terrain can complicate a rescue scenario, and how when the road was created, the workers removed the trees that once protected the top of the falls from any traffic. Now with them removed, there is no fail safe for the guard rail, making a rescue more possible. Recently, there was a collision between a State truck and a POV. This accident was discussed and how similar accidents are bound to happen in the near future.

After a short briefing and discussion of backgrounds, the group moved to the island at the top of the falls. Here, the group discussed how a vehicle may become lodged in the rocks, and how a high water shed could easily move a smaller vehicle over the falls. A question was posed at this point, “what would be the safest was to get someone out”, and “how would I do that?” DK pointed out with a high water shed, and the fact that the falls are close to the rescue site, the safest way to remove a patient who is in a vehicle is to call out two local wreckers, and to attach a rescuer to a lower/hall system and to put them down over the embankment and attach the two toe hooks to the vehicle. Then they would be able to pull the car back over the embankment keeping rescue personal safe. The question was posed later in the day by Jeremy O’Neil, “with all the ambulance chasing lawyers out there today, how could we protect ourselves from law suit later on after the rescue. The point was brought up that it would be unsafe to immobilize a patient in the water, and that in all EMS education books they state that our own personal safety is paramount, and that the best way to extract a patient would be to do an emergency evacuation and that it would be safer for both crew and patient to be moved out of the dangerous situation.

The use of different types of vehicle stabilization devices was also discussed by the crews and how to best use our resources to successfully rescue a patient. Z lines and 3 to 1 systems were practiced, and may other rescue techniques were practiced. Special thanks goes out to Chappy for his scene safety at the training and slowing down traffic during our exercise.