Members of the Corner Brook Fire Department have had to respond to emergencies involving confined spaces before, but soon all of the members will have formal training in how to tackle such operations safely.
The first of the fire department’s four platoons has completed its four-day training session and the rest will follow in the coming two months or so.
The training involves theoretical and then practical training on how to negotiate entry and rescue operations in tight spaces. Added to the confining space are elements such as fire and smoke or other noxious substances, not to mention low light levels.
In fact, in many cases, the only light available may be from a headlamp worn on a firefighter’s helmet.
“This training allows us to be able to go in and meet the obligations of (Occupational Health and Safety) when it comes to doing these sorts of rescues,” said Geoff Tulk, captain of training with the Corner Brook Fire Department. “There are a number of protocols you have to follow.”
Confined spaces could be found anywhere, from a manhole or a ship’s hold to areas within the complex Corner Brook Pulp and Paper mill.
Tulk said there are close to 20 water pressure release valve stations in Corner Brook, into which municipal employees go in to work quite regularly. The fire department would get a call if something ever happened to one of those workers.
“Whenever they do go down into these structures, they always call in to us to let us know when they are going down and let us know when they are back out again,” said Tulk.
The training is being facilitated by the Safety and Emergency Response Training Centre based in Stephenville. It has a trailer that mimics confined spaces with dark, narrowing tunnels containing a variety of sharp turns.
Teamwork is essential when it comes to properly conducting a safe entry or rescue in a confined space. Tulk said everyone is assigned a specific job and radio communications is integral to relaying information from within the space to the scene commander making a plan to execute the required response.
“We also have to have a rapid intervention team that would be on standby to go in, in case something major happened and we had to rescue our own guys,” said Tulk.