Every day Rockford firefighters go to work aware of the possibility that they could be placed in a life-threatening situation. For the past week, 16 Rockford firefighters have been learning the ropes of confined space rescue so they'll be certified through the Occupational and Safety Health Administration, or OSHA, if such a rescue becomes necessary.
"We have a person in a tank or a confined space because something went wrong and they're down. The sooner we affect a rescue, the greater their chances of living, so it's important that our skills be at a high level," said Rockford District Chief Jerry Wiltfang.
Saving a victim from a manhole was one of the simulated rescues and the Fire Department allowed me to serve as a mock victim. After making their way down a tube they found me and started fastening me into a harness. Once I was properly restrained they moved me through a tunnel-like area and then started lifting me through a passage.
In their skilled hands I felt totally safe, and when a real situation comes along these brave firefighters will be equipped with the specific skills they need.
"It's very important for all firefighters to be aware of confined space dangers. Firefighters are dying all across the country because they're entering a space for a rescue. This takes us to a different level so that we can enter a space safely and rescue the victim," said Rockford firefighter Chris Scott.
In 1908, the chief of the New York Fire Department said, "When a man becomes a fireman, his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished, what he does after that is all in the line of work."
And it's training like this that perfects a firefighter’s line of work and keeps us safe in their hands. In addition to confined space rescue, OSHA also requires that technical rescue teams be certified in four other disciplines which include, vertical/rope, trench, structural collapse and vehicle/machinery rescue.
Five firefighters from surrounding communities also took place in this week's training.