As some of you may be aware, there was a very large vehicle accident on Interstate 78 in Bethel Township, Lebanon County, PA this past Saturday (2/13/16). Although this is not far from my home, I was not personally on the scene as I was called in to work in our State’s Emergency Operations Center. (My department’s (Rehrersburg) rescue was called to the scene.)
There is plenty of media coverage on the incident, and if you would like to read some check out www.pennlive.com, or www.ldnews.com to name a few. (For those not in the PA area, I am sure that you can look around your particular areas to find accidents that would test the mettle of any rescuer.)
It is incidents like this that are for the most part “once-in-a-lifetime” (if ever) for most vehicle rescue personnel. However reviewing incidents like this can serve to reinforce their training and may actually serve to better their services during those “ho-hum” day to day single car crashes. The reason I say this is that all those skills you learn in “beginner” vehicle rescue classes are the very same skills needed to respond to the 64-vehicle crash. Let’s look at a few:
*Incident and crew management – we teach beginning rescuers about the incident management system, but do we use it in our day-to-day responses? If we reinforce best ICS practices with personnel during the normal stuff, it will make responding to the big one a little easier.
*Basic understanding and use of rescue tools and skills – from people who I have talked to so far, it sounds like from a “tooling the vehicle” perspective, this wasn’t cutting 64 vehicles. It was actually working through a series of single and two-vehicle accidents that did stretch the available tools and did require some creative ways to do things. But the bottom line is these folks were using the same tools and the same basic skills that they learned in their first vehicle rescue class, and have hopefully continued to refresh and update both of them.
*Knowing resources – I often ask classes where they are going to get X, Y, and/or Z if they needed them for a vehicle accident. Many times the blank stares tell me they have never thought about it. If they haven’t figured that out ahead of time, when something big/bad happens they are not going to do well. Again resource management is something that needs to be reinforced at the “beginner” level.
*Officer/command skills – Being the incident commander is a little more than a beginner skill, but teaching those young junior fire fighters the ability to assess, analyze, and good decision-making now will go a long way to creating the next generation of officers to lead the service.
So how is “using the news” going to help train vehicle rescuers? Pick an incident (small, medium, or large) and throw it on the table at drill, pick a location in your district, and work through the incident as if it was your first due. Talk about the “what if’s”, figure out your resources, talk about crew and incident management, start talking tools (look at the juniors and tell them to put the portable power units together for the HRT’s – if they can find it… LOL). Think about the role of every person who is sitting in the room and what skills they possess, what they need to train on, and what skills they can teach to the others on the crew. It might be surprising what you learn!
Keep it safe folks! As always you are welcome to share this message! EJR