911th Soldiers improve skills at Rescue Challenge
May 8, 2013
NORTHERN VIRGINIA - - A six year old boy and his father are reported missing in a deep culvert and another man has been reported dangling in the middle of an abandoned elevator shaft!
Fortunately this isn't one of the worst days in the National Capital Region, but it is just two of the scenarios used during the annual training program called Rescue Challenge, designed to challenge technical rescue teams from Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia and the Federal Government, May 6 - 10.
"Rescue Challenge brings us [Technical Rescue Teams] together so we can keep our skills sharp and see how the other teams solve problems," said Captain Langston J. Turner, commanding officer of the 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company, stationed at Fort Belvoir. "We are the hosting unit at the confined spaces and the breaking and breaching sites we set up at Fort Belvoir this year, but we train with our partner organizations from the NCR a number of times during the year."
The first Rescue Challenge was held in May of 1995 and included only six fire departments within Virginia. Then Henrico County Division of Fire Battalion Chief Steve Wood wanted to raise the abilities of technical-rescue teams, share problem solving techniques and to develop working relationships among the teams within Virginia jurisdictions through combined training incidents. Nineteen years later, nine teams representing more than a dozen organizations participated in Rescue Challenge 2013 at sites all over north central Virginia.
"At the breaking and breaching site we are practicing skills in entering a void space, looking for possible survivors of a collapsed structure," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael E. McGee, 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company technical advisor. "The teams here will face a structural collapse scenario and will have to clear and move through a 36" culvert to a 24" culvert. They will have to figure out ways to use their tools in such a small space."
McGee said the teams regularly use tools that may weigh more than 45 lbs. such as concrete saws and breaker drills while clearing a path through the small spaces.
Other skills and techniques were on display at the cavernous and unused coal fuel section of the Virginia Dominium Possum Point Power Station located approximately 30 miles south of DC.
"This training site involves a worker that has been missing for 25 minutes, and is found hanging 30 feet from the top of an elevator shaft," said Dan Beck, a Prince William County Fire and Rescue Technician Two. "The team cannot use the stairs, but must bring the survivor up out of the shaft, string a high-line system to traverse a 129 foot chasm, then lower the worker down to the ground floor more than 100 feet below."
Beck watches the Soldiers from the 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company prepare rigging they will need to accomplish the rescue and offers advice as needed. "This type of rigging is something our department does often, and it is always interesting to see how other rescue teams solve problems," said Beck.
The Technical Rescue Association of Virginia's website states that Rescue Challenge is not a competition. Instead, it is an opportunity for highly trained teams to gain experience by participating in realistic scenarios that test their skills and knowledge. It is also a great opportunity for technical rescuers from many jurisdictions to discuss issues and trade valuable information in a formal and informal setting.