Exclusive look inside hazmat training for rescues from confined spaces

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PARMA, Ohio– Whether saving someone trapped in a storage tank, a silo or a sewer pipe, first responders have to prepare for rescues in challenging environments.

Tuesday, the Chagrin/Southeast Hazmat Team trained for rescues in confined spaces at Tri-C’s Key Bank Public Safety Training Center.

The facility has a variety of underground pipes that can be used to train for vertical or horizontal rescues, which rescuers said are relatively rare but risky.

“It’s very tight but the guys are good at manipulating their lines and each other to make it work,” said Beachwood Fire Dept. Lt. Chad Thompson.

Firefighters carefully moved through pipes just a couple of feet wide to reach a mock victim. Each rescuer is attached to ropes, an air supply and a communications line.

“Safety of our crew is most important because if we get in trouble we’re not able to rescue the patient,” said Maple Heights firefighter Greg Kaminsky.

Chagrin/Southeast Hazmat Team Director Mark Vedder said the team responds to about one rescue in a confined space each year and trains four times per year to prepare.

“It’s one of those low frequency, high-risk events,” Vedder said, noting rescues in confined spaces can be particularly dangerous for rescuers. “It’s to prepare our responders to deal with confined space emergencies, so someone trapped in a sewer or production tank, something like that and they’re either injured or incapacitated by the environment.”

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