In 2009, the department purchased a dedicated technical rescue vehicle and restructured its technical rescue program to operate solely out of Station No. 5. Previously, each station was responsible for operating one of the five technical rescue programs (confined space, rope, structural collapse, trench, and water/ice) plus the hazardous materials program.
All personnel at Station No. 5 are cross-trained in each of the five technical rescue areas. Due to the amount of training involved, the hazardous materials program is operated separately out of Station No. 4. These incidents are labor and time intensive and pose additional risks to the firefighters. Many federal and state safety regulations apply when working at these scenes. Department Standard Operating Procedures have been developed to help ensure that all personnel are operating efficiently and safely.
While it's true that Kansas lacks some of the extreme terrain of the mountains, our area still provides a variety of challenges. Towers, grain elevators, waterways, steep inclines and construction projects all present their unique set of rescue problems.
- Rope Rescue
The Technical Rescue Team responds to both high-angle and low-angle calls. These team members assist when it's necessary to construct rope systems to remove victims safely, or when their expertise can support the work of other specialized department teams.
Techniques include mechanical advantage raising and lowering systems, rappelling and litter evacuations. A number of specialized knots are used to construct these systems. Most of the rope rescue consists of raising and lowering rescuers/victims in the urban setting.
- Structural Collapse
Disasters in recent years have produced many collapsed and damaged structures and include the tornados that struck Greensburg and Chapman and a large grain bin collapse in Russell that killed two workers. In response to these and other incidents, the department has been training and equipping the Technical Rescue Team to search and rescue civilians from these dangerous situations.
The Technical Rescue Team can operate at a variety of structures from wood-framed residences to multi-story masonry commercial buildings. Rotary hammer drills and various types of saws breach materials and allow search cameras to be inserted into void spaces. Aluminum and wood struts are placed to brace unstable walls, floors, and ceilings so that rescuers can remove trapped victims safely.
The Technical Rescue Team is also part of Kansas Task Force 2 and can be deployed to regional disasters in the Northwest part of Kansas.
- Trench Rescue
Trench collapse emergencies occur during the excavation of soil for utility pipe installation and basement construction.
In a trench collapse emergency firefighters assess the situation and identify any hazards, such as unstable soil, operating construction equipment, and damaged utility pipes and lines. Equipment specific to this incident include sheets of thick plywood used with hydraulic and/or air shoring to stabilize the trench walls, hand tools for removing soil from around the occupant, and rope rescue equipment for removing the occupant from the collapsed area
- Water/Ice Rescue
The goal of the Technical Rescue Team is to deliver a well equipped and well trained team to the site of any water or ice emergency in Douglas County.
Douglas County contains various streams and lakes including Clinton Reservoir, Lone Star Lake, and the Kansas and Wakarusa Rivers. The Kansas River, which runs right through town, contains a low-head dam and hydroelectric generators, presenting unique challenges for the team.
We utilize various water rescue equipment including three aluminum boats and two inflatable boats. Four of the boats are motorized and one is non-motorized, allowing it to be deployed in remote locations. The team also is trained in the use of cold-water immersion suits allowing the members to operate in subfreezing conditions.
Although the water rescue team is only trained for surface operations, we work closely with and support the Douglas County Underwater Recovery Team.