BRANSON, Mo. -- Firefighters in the Ozarks are training for one of the most difficult rescue situations. It’s part of a $30,000 grant handed down by the Department of Homeland Security Oversight Committee.
Instructors from Missouri University are working with the Branson, Taney County and Northeast (near St. Louis) Fire Departments on trench rescues, at the Waste Water Treatment Facility in Branson.
"The faster we can put shoring in place, to make it safer for the victim and the rescuers the better off the outcome for everybody," says Training Instructor Gary Graf.
In addition, quickly cut wooden boards to a specific size, Gaft and his fellow trainers are teaching firefighters how to use pneumatic braces, which expand with air pressure, and can be inserted between special walls that slide down the sides of a trench.
"Dirt I think weighs something like 60 pounds per cubic foot," says Mike Novak,
The Branson Fire Department Battalion Chief says time is of the essence during a rescue because air pockets can form at the bottom of a trench after a collapse. Novak says while most construction crews use a metal "trench boxes" for utility work, many collapses occur for the same reason.
"They just got in a trench to do a real quick job," says Novak, "and it wasn't stable and it collapsed on them."
The third element of the training is using hydraulic braces which are commonly found at construction sites.
Even with tree forms of support at their disposal during a rescue, firefighters are often called upon to give some support of their own.
"We've had some that have (lasted) 12 to 16 hours," says Graf, "So family members and co-workers are going to start showing up, and you have to deal with those people while trying to get their loved ones out."
Graf says having a good working relationship with construction crews, and knowing when and where there working is just as valuable at the tools he is using for training.
"They're the professionals on what's down there," he says. "How deep it is, where the utilities are at."
Similar training courses are taking place across the state. Once crews are certified they will then be able to respond to calls outside their jurisdiction.
Next month, the Branson Fire Department, among others, will begin training on structure rescues.