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New Providence Technical Rescue Squad Drills Trench Rescue

Edward Hopkins

Saturday, May 31, 2014 • 6:21pm

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The New Providence Fire Department ran their bi-annual drill for the Technical Rescue Squad on Saturday morning. The Technical Rescue Squad consists of members of New Providence Fire Department, Berkeley Heights Fire Department, Chatham Borough Fire Department, Roselle Park Fire Department, and New Providence EMS.

Since 60% of trench rescue victims are rescue workers themselves, the squad members followed a complex protocol for Saturday’s trench rescue simulation. First, the squad tested the trench with a meter that checked for toxins and continued to monitor the meter throughout the drill. They then pumped any water out of the trench.

“We have to make the walls safe first,” said NPFD Chief Parlapiano. Before descending into the trench, the squad had to preempt the trench’s edge and walls from collapsing: they constructed a plywood platform around the perimeter and then stabilized the walls by sliding large 280-lb. panels into the trench, guiding the panels down along two 2x4s. Panels were first placed alongside the “victim,” a 150-lb. mannequin. The squad then lowered struts into the trench, using air pressure to lock the struts in place, connecting the two panels. The struts, which can support 10,000 lbs., were placed every four feet and nailed into the panels by a squad member on a ladder.

With the walls stabilized, qualified squad members entered the trench to rescue the victim. They secured the victim via “webbing” (various harnesses) into a “sked,” a device that resembles a flexible stretcher with which the victim was pulled up. The EMS then oversaw the victim.

The squad completed the drill in two hours, deemed a good practice time by Fire Official Drew Vignali, who heads the squad along with Deputy Chief Michael D. Piana of the NPFD.

After the drill, Chief Parlapiano conducted a transfer-of-keys ceremony with Larry Armstrong, who represented Summit Truck & Auto Body. Summit Truck & Auto Body donated the Technical Rescue Squad truck to the department.

According to Vignali, the squad’s goal is to readily attend emergencies in the western part of Union County that the county’s main rescue squad, which operates out of Elizabeth, may not be able to as quickly arrive at. The squad also assists the county squad and others in whatever situation they can. “They’re trained for confined space, such as manholes and sewers, trench collapses, and high-angle rescue,” said Vignali.

The Technical Rescue Squad has been serving citizens for eight years. A Summit Area Public Foundation Grant allowed for the squad to begin operating, and funds from business owners and towns have continued to provide support. The squad runs drills bi-annually, in the spring and fall.

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