Arnold Fire and Emergency Services highly trained special rescue team
By Deidre Ortiz, AEDC/PA
/ Published January 23, 2018
ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN. -- The Arnold Air Force Base Fire and Emergency Services is a fully certified fire department, with all personnel trained in the core competencies of firefighting and emergency response, including specialized rescue training.
Because of the industrial nature of much of the work that takes place at the Base, Arnold Fire and Emergency Services Chief Daryle Lopes explained that being trained in rescue from elevated areas and enclosed spaces is important for his team.
“There are a lot of individuals on base who work high above ground, on cranes, scaffolding or platforms, and we’re very well prepared to effectively rescue from these higher elevations,” he said. “When folks working in confined spaces find themselves in an emergency situation, we are ready to help them too.”
Of the firefighters at Arnold, 12 are certified rescue technicians who have received extensive training through the Department of Defense Fire Training Academy.
“Such specialized training provides the skills they need to effectively lower people down from a high spot or lift people from locations far below grade,” Lopes said.
Upon reaching the scene of an accident where a rescue is needed, the first step is to analyze the situation.
“As we arrive, we survey the scene, develop a plan and then apply our training to safely remove the person from their situation,” Lopes said.
One of the initial requirements after joining the Arnold Fire and Emergency Services as a firefighter is completing familiarization training of the test facilities and buildings on base. Furthermore, the department develops pre-fire plans for all major facilities on base and updates these plans annually.
Though one can’t anticipate every emergency scenario, Lopes commented that his firefighters strive to be as prepared as they can be for any situation that might arise.
“When special projects such as construction or Complex maintenance occurs, we coordinate with project managers to help our team develop the technical rescue solution for any emergency situation we anticipate,” he said.
For example, Arnold firefighters have performed exercises at the J-4 Rocket Engine Test Facility in which they performed a 260-foot vertical lift of a simulated victim using rescue ropes and a power winch. The power winch, which was purchased specifically for that operation, safely hoisted a 165-pound rescue manikin out of the J-4 shaft.
“The winch allows firefighters to raise or lower a victim quickly and safely, and because it’s portable, the winch can be set-up wherever it’s needed. It also has built-in safeguards to help ensure the victim’s safety during rescue operations.”
A similar exercise was also performed during the RC Cooler renovations at the Aeropropulsion Systems Test Facility, in which the fire team used a crane to raise a simulated victim out of the cooler and then lowered the manikin to the ground with rescue ropes and a Stokes litter or rescue basket.
“We conduct these exercises to allow for safer, more efficient and effective rescue operations,” said Arnold Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Chief Daryl VanCise.
When performing these types of rescues, the Fire and Emergency Services uses its P-28 Heavy Rescue Vehicle, which is stocked with rescue tools and equipment. Of the 13 team members assigned to each operations tour of duty, there are at least two trained rescue technicians available.
If needed, Lopes also mentioned that the Arnold Fire and Emergency Services will employ local fire departments, who have other equipment, such as 102-foot extendable ladders, to help conduct safe and successful rescue operations.
“If we need high reach capability to perform a rescue that’s safer or faster, we may call on one of our Mutual Aid partners, or even use AEDC equipment and operators,” he said. “We will always go with the safest option.”
In addition to the rescue capabilities, the majority of the firemen and women at Arnold are certified Emergency Medical Technicians, Advanced EMTs or Paramedics.
“At least 28 of our fire team is trained at the EMT level or higher and have outstanding medical capability,” said Assistant Chief Operations Jim Evans.
In the event that an AEDC team member finds himself or herself in an emergency situation or sees that someone else is, the fastest way to receive assistance is to call 9-1-1.
“9-1-1 calls from cellular phones are connected to county dispatchers, so always explain that your emergency is located on Arnold Air Force Base,” Lopes said. “They will transfer the call to us and we will respond.
The Fire and Emergency Services is required to respond to a call and be at the location of the incident within 7 minutes of notification. According to VanCise, the team beats this time and typically arrives on scene in less than 5 minutes.
The Arnold Fire and Emergency Services directors also mention that they offer outreach to personnel on base to address any questions concerning emergency response to particular work areas and the plans in place. If interested in having a representative with the Fire and Emergency Services come and speak during a Tool Box session or staff meeting, call (931) 454-5648.