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NAVFAC Southwest Personnel Train in Urban Search and Rescue

08/29/13 12:00 AM

By Mario Icari, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest Public Affairs

CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southwest Base Support Vehicles & Equipment (BSV&E) Crane and Rigging (C&R) in conjunction with Navy Region Southwest Federal Fire Department (FEDFIRE), and Chula Vista Fire Department Heavy Rescue 53 coordinated a simulated joint rescue training exercise Aug. 20 at Naval Base Coronado.

"We've developed a group exercise with FEDFIRE so we can establish incident command and rescue procedures," said John Holtermann, NAVFAC Southwest BSV&E designated diving coordinator. "This is the first time we've done this. This is our first training exercise. With our capabilities at cranes and rigging, we can safely go in there and remove a structure and then the fire fighters can go and see if there is a victim. There are a lot of incidents where the fire department does not have the assets, they can't get close enough or have a ladder tall enough to get to the top of a building. We are Crane and Rigging. We have the assets to make that happen."

The exercise was part of a planned joint urban search and rescue phased training program, where multiple real-life rescue scenarios were encountered and tackled by combined multiagency efforts at the same time.

The agencies performed rescues from the aftermath of a simulated massive earthquake in the San Diego area. Within the simulated earthquake there was a collapsed structure which pinned a vehicle and someone may have been inside, another was a non-ambulatory crane rescue on a rooftop, and the last rescue involved extraction of a survivor in an unstable collapsed environment.

"We can work together to perform successful rescues," said Holtermann. "We develop in phases. First was classroom training, next is simulated rescue. Later we plan on getting more people trained and involved; and perform more of these simulations; and hopefully if there is a need, then we can respond. We've already done some classroom training with FEDFIRE. Our riggers have taken FEMA incident command training and we've got together with firefighters and done group training. Within the group training, the idea was that the fire fighters know what our assets are and we know what their assets are so we could move smoothly together."

The goal of this training was to establish incident command C&R availability in case of an emergency that requires heavy lift rescue equipment.

Up until now, FEDFIRE and NAVFAC Southwest C&R did not have a partnership agreement or joint training in place to provide emergency response. NAVFAC Southwest C&R has the lifting capability and technical expertise that could be utilized in case of a catastrophic emergency. FEDFIRE has rescue, fire, and lifesaving experts available to perform needed rescue.

"You can imagine if there were a big earthquake, all these guys have to work together on a daily basis," said Vince Sobash, NAVFAC Southwest Emergency Management program specialist. "It's a chance to work out those sorts of issues. When you have structural collapse, you've got something you can't move with manpower. That's the thing; they've never got to train together - the fire guys with the crane and rigging guys. You don't want the crane and rigging guys going into the rubble or danger area. The fire guys go in there but they really don't know the rigging and crane controls, so they need to work out that relationship."

Development of group assets will ensure we are providing emergency response to our community in the event crane support is required. This combined training will also ensure we are coordinating emergency services with FEDFIRE in the event that rescue is needed for a fall hazard victim.

"The event was a huge success," said Holtermann. "This was the first of a group effort and training that will continue at later dates. The addition of another potential lifesaving asset to our community has been obtained through the efforts of C&R and FEDFIRE."

The goals of this training were to establish a coherent partnership with FEDFIRE and ensure the safety of all rescue personnel. After a thorough briefing with all participants, C&R and FEDFIRE both realized that NAVFAC Southwest's pre-job and pre-rescue brief were similar. These similarities immediately established a mutual respect for the roles played in the scenarios and insured that safety of personnel is paramount during rescue and training activities.

"The outstanding professionalism of both communities was evident in the safe execution of all crane picks and the exercise overall," said Sobash. "I feel this really was a landmark day for both programs and I look forward to continued training and the development of this program. I believe a day will come when lives are saved because of these efforts."


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