DOBSON– Veteran rescue workers from across the Piedmont put their skills to the test in Surry and Yadkin counties simulating lifesaving rescue scenarios during a course recently co-sponsored by Surry Community College (SCC).
The North Carolina Association of Rescue & EMS and SCC hosted the Graduate Mountain Rescue Course. Held annually, the course provides experienced rescue personnel the opportunity to put their training into practice. This year’s course focused on rescue scenarios in an industrial setting and also on rope science, testing the critical thinking and reaction times of participants.
SCC Director of Emergency Services Training Center Ian Harrell explained that courses similar to this have been held for more than eleven years. The idea originally formed from schools held by the North Carolina Association of Rescue & EMS.
“As rescue workers we are taught many techniques, but we rarely get a chance to apply them because catastrophic events fortunately don’t happen very often,” said Jeff Hinshaw, an EMS and fire rescue instructor for SCC who was the lead coordinator of the Graduate Mountain Rescue Course. “This course has participants experience rescue scenarios they don’t typically go through during weekend training events. We focus on applying what they’ve learned.”
Harrell said that the thinking behind the courses was to bring graduate personnel together to practice rescue techniques and get acquainted with new rescue technology.
“Graduate rescue programs are not so much on how to tie knots,” said Harrell. “It’s about learning new rescue procedures and ways to address unique situations.”
Harrell said that technology used for rescues has improved and has generally become more complicated. He also said that rescues in confined spaces and cell towers have increased.
“Just a few years ago we did not do many confined space rescues,” added Harrell. “We have to not only gain entry but bring people back out. We have to work in close proximity to high energy lines and poisonous gasses.”
Course participants included members of rescue squads and fire departments from Yadkin, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth, Rockingham, and Cabarrus counties. Each has completed the first four levels of High Angle Rescue School and many are instructors at their respective public safety organizations.
During the first day of the Graduate Mountain Rescue Course, participants trained at the Bepco manufacturing plant in Yadkin County. The industrial setting made it possible to stage rescue simulations of victims stranded on top of a water tank and trapped in confined spaces. The training included victim pick-offs, patient packaging, vertical and horizontal extractions, confined space rope operations, and safety procedures.
SCC’s Emergency Services Training Center was the site of the course’s second day, when participants tested the strength and stability of various techniques for suspending a 450-pound object. The simulations purposely used inadequate wraps to demonstrate the consequences of not taking proper safety measures when securing victims during a rescue.
“We put stress on the equipment and intentionally make things fail,” Hinshaw said. “We’re kind of like a crash test facility for rope.” Participants also tested fall-arresting equipment.
Harrell said the participants want to evaluate if equipment works, how it works and will it hurt them if it is used.
“Overall, we found that new fall-arresting equipment worked well while some of the older equipment didn’t work as well,” concluded Harrell.
The North Carolina Association of Rescue & EMS offers the Graduate Mountain Rescue Course annually with a different training focus each year.
SCC has hosted the course during the past few years, making use of the facilities at the Emergency Services Training Center on its Dobson campus. The center hosts numerous training events each year. To learn more about the training center and its programs contact Ian Harrell at 336-386-3403.