A city employee is working 20 feet underground when suddenly an alarm goes off indicating that his oxygen supply is low. As he tries to get to higher ground his ladder breaks and he falls five to six feet, leaving him unconscious but still breathing.
This is one scenario Marietta firefighters were given and learned to respond to during a confined space rescue refresher course held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
"Every year they need an annual refresher - that's an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standard," said Akron firefighter David Ware, lead instructor with Cleveland State University's Center for Emergency Preparedness. "They've been through an entry class and initial rescue class and this is the annual recertification."
Marietta firefighters train at Jackson Park
Marietta Fire Chief C.W. Durham said although there aren't many times when a firefighter finds himself going into a confined space to rescue someone, it's still extremely important that all firefighters go through the training so they are prepared for such a scenario.
He said a local plant is one place where firefighters might one day find themselves doing a confined space rescue.
"They notify us anytime they're going to have confined space operations," Durham said. "It may be as simple as cleaning out one of their tanks."
Marietta firefighters participate in a confined space rescue training session Thursday at Jackson Hill Park on Cisler Drive in Marietta. The training, required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, involved them being lowered 20 feet underground to rescue a fake victim.
RITTENHOUSE The Marietta Times
Durham added that confined spaces present several unique challenges.
"A lot of times it's very low to no visibility, a hazardous atmosphere and limited movement," he said. "With all your equipment on, you don't have a whole lot of room to work."
In total, 34 Marietta firefighters participated in the refresher course, with each of them completing eight hours of classroom and hands-on training. The training was funded with a Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) grant obtained by Cleveland State University.
At a glance
Thirty-four Marietta firefighters participated in a confined space rescue refresher course Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Each firefighter completed eight hours of classroom and hands-on training.
The course was led by instructors from Cleveland State University's Center for Emergency Preparedness.
The hands-on portion of the course was completed at Jackson Hill Park in Marietta, where firefighters used a former water storage facility for training purposes.
Once they completed the classroom work in the mornings they went to Jackson Hill Park on Cisler Drive in Marietta, where they used a former water storage facility for training purposes.
There are two narrow ground level openings that lead to the underground storage facility, with the drop from the openings to the bottom of the storage facility being about 20 feet.
Firefighters were equipped with a helmet with a light on it, gloves, a harness, oxygen tank and mask and a radio to communicate with those still above ground.
Ropes were attached to their harnesses as well as a large tripod centered over top the opening, creating a pulley system. Using the ropes, firefighters lowered others into the facility one by one through one opening, while a ventilator sent fresh air in to the underground facility through the other opening.
Once they reached the bottom they were met by a 185-pound dummy portraying the injured city worker. They had to secure the fake victim to ropes in order to safely raise it 20 feet to the surface.
Durham said in a real-life scenario, a firefighter would be most concerned about protecting his or her own air supply, making sure the environment is safe to go into and providing air to the victim.
"There could be chemicals," he said. "Even if they're trapped and it's a delayed rescue, we could get fresh air to them right away."
Also as part of the training firefighters had to rescue the fake victim from an 18-inch wide corrugated tube, which was placed in the underground storage facility.
To complete that task they had to be hung upside down and go shoulders first into the tube.
"It's a very grueling position to try to work in," said Marietta Fire Capt. Jack Hansis. "The blood is rushing to your head and you're borderline passing out."
Hansis said that type of training would come in handy if someone needed rescued from an abandoned well or sewer pipe.