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NEWS | Oct. 6, 2022

JBLE Fire Department aids in joint rescue mission

By Senior Airman Alexus Wilcox 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

633d Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department, partnered with Hampton Fire and Norfolk Fire Technical Rescue teams to conduct high-risk tunnel rescue training for the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion Project at the South Island excavation site, Hampton, Virginia, Sept. 25, 2022.

Though the tunnel is under Norfolk’s jurisdiction for responding to rescue needs, all rescue teams were tasked with collaborating to overcome the tactical challenges of three rescue scenarios to prepare for potential real-world incidents that could occur during the construction of the tunnel. 

“We are fortunate enough to have a mutual aid agreement with Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson and York County,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Rico, 633d Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department station chief. “Every department has a different way of doing things and you need to be willing to listen and follow their direction.”

Following the lead of the incident commander, rescue teams began securing the safety of a simulated patient at the front of the excavation site, who was packaged in a body conveyor and carried out of the site. The second patient was removed from the center of the site, in a man basket, carried by a tower crane. The third patient was retrieved from the rear end of the site by an aerial device using an integrated rope system.

Inevitably, there were many risk factors to consider prior to executing training objectives. Hazards such as heavy equipment, moving vehicles, slipping, tripping and falling were all things the rescue teams accounted for in their pre-training briefings.

Keeping safety at the forefront of training, the rescue included an Incident Command Structure that consisted of various safety teams, dispersed among the excavation site, who reported to the incident commander when necessary. This method ensured efficiency and effectiveness of training.

“Safety is the most important part of any project,” said Rico. “With a project of this magnitude, you have higher potential for injury or death.”

One of the many benefits of this training is that preparing for a real-world rescue mission provides the rescue teams’ the ability to assess whether the resources available to them are sufficient. Due to the rapid changing of personnel available for training and rescue, joint resources are an essential aid to mitigate challenges in the rescue efforts of each fire department.

“Our increased call volume may hinder our entire team from being available,” said Captain Harvey Mowry, Hampton technical rescue team coordinator. “Additional assets to include knowledge, experience, and equipment, when training together, become valuable assets. Joint relationships will assist our departments and region in a large event, such as this”.

By using the scenario-based methods of rescue, in a collaborative setting, all teams involved had adequate knowledge and response techniques required for saving lives in the event of an emergency incident.

Another challenge the rescue teams overcame were the differences that exist when combining civilian and military teams.

“Our department has three shifts that work differently than military schedule,” said Mowry. “We may not be with the same crew on an incident that you trained with. Open communication and a speedy response to request in an incident situation is key to success”

Overall, the rescue training allows a versatile approach to safety and various rescue methods to ensure success.

“At the end of the day, we are a brother and sisterhood. We want to make sure the community is safe, and every firefighter comes home alive,” said Rico.