Connecticut Post (Sunday)
Firefighters head to local brewery for rescue training
STRATFORD — Captain Stephen O’Hara climbed up a ladder from the second floor of the Two Roads Brewery, behind other firefighters. On the roof near the silos were more firefighters gathered by a Stokes basket, a portable stretcher used by first responders and the military for rescues.
Fortunately, no one was in it. O’Hara was leading a training exercise on Thursday morning where 20 firefighters practiced rescuing people from confined spaces using ropes and litters.
The department was able to conduct the training after recently receiving nearly $26,000 through a grant from FEMA. The training will allow firefighters to handle varied situations, he said.
“It can be used for confined spaces, which is what we’re doing today. If we have to go over an embankment, if we have someone stuck in one of the cell tower poles, we have the carnivals that come to town, if we’re not able to access via our ladder truck, this is one of the ways that we might be able to do that,” O’Hara said.
The firefighters on the roof were simulating using the basket attached to what Lt. Sean McKenney called a high point, which is similar to a pulley. When a team of firefighters is pulling someone to safety, they use mechanical advantage to apply the correct amount of force.
The firefighters were using a 2-1 system to simulate pulling someone out of harm’s way. McKenney said that someone would have to pull a victim using half as much force as the weight of a load, so a firefighter pulling with 100 pounds of force could lift a 200-pound person to safety.
If they use too much force it could put the victim at risk since the firefighters might not be able to gauge how much force is being used to bring someone back up. The result is that if a firefighter’s arm is caught on something it could lead to severe injury or even dismemberment. They’re taught to be cautious, he said.
“It’s a very methodical process. So there’s a saying that slow is fast and fast is slow,” McKenney said.
The firefighters are also aware that a potential victim will sometimes be in a vulnerable emotional state or simply might lose their nerve at the prospect of being pulled up by ropes. The feeling of being lifted up into the air is a little unnerving for some, but the sensation of being lifted into the sky is the same at four feet or a 100 feet off the ground, he said. As a victim is gradually lifted into the air, their anxiety should lessen, he added.
But overcoming their nerves is not easy, he said.
“There’s always a little sense of hesitation, transitioning over an edge at height. That’s just nature,” he said.
While the firefighters were getting trained on how to rescue people in confined spaces, the brewery was getting something out of it too. Peter Doering, one of the founders of Two Roads Brewery and a partner, said the department had been scouting potential locations for training, and picked the brewery as an ideal location.
But the crews weren’t just practicing their rescue skills.
“We had a temperature probe, which we had been scratching our heads how to get repaired for quite a few months. And when these guys showed up, it was like, ‘OK, you can go ahead and do this,” Doering said.
McKenny, when not training to rescue human victims, rescued the temperature probe, a long metal rod.
Yet while the firefighters and the brewery each benefited from the training, O’Hara said the ultimate beneficiaries are the people of Stratford.
“It’s going to make our department a whole lot more versatile. And it’s going to help keep the residents of the town safer,” he said.