The Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team completed its final phase of training Friday with a simulated trench rescue incident on the property of the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant. The USAR team, based in Chattanooga, is responsible for responding to technical rescue incidents, primarily in a 10-county area of Southeast Tennessee.
This final training scenario involved a deep trench that collapsed on a worker, burying him under a huge amount of dirt. It was up to the USAR students to figure out how to get to the “victim,” actually a mannequin, without becoming victims themselves. To do that, they had to secure the trench with lots of lumber and struts, and remove a large amount of dirt. After several hours of painstaking, dirty, back-breaking work, the victim was pulled from the trench. It’s a similar scenario to what happened back in 1998, when Darby Patrick was trapped under five feet of dirt for about 15 hours at a Highway 58 construction site. He was successfully rescued, but he unfortunately lost a leg and the road to recovery for him has been long.
When that incident occurred in 1998, much of the specialized equipment for trench rescues came from a response team out of Knoxville. Thanks mostly to federal grants, this region has its own specialized team, officially called Tennessee Task Force 4. The students in the training this week came from the Chattanooga Fire Department, Bradley County Fire-Rescue, the Cleveland Fire Department, Signal Mountain Fire Department, and two medical personnel from Erlanger Medical Center. HEPACO, an environmental cleanup company, and Chattanooga Public Works, also provided valuable assistance with this training.
Since Tennessee Task Force 4 was formed in 2007, approximately 180 firefighters have been trained to the technician level for the USAR team.