Valdosta firefighters train for the worst - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Valdosta firefighters train for the worst

August 14, 2007

Valdosta - As the Utah mine rescue continues into the eighth day, firefighters back in Valdosta are utilizing many of the same techniques to train for a similar disaster in the region.

While we many not have any mines, they say confined spaces are everywhere.  "They are primarily an industrial thing and water and sewer.  Every manhole in the city, that's an entrance to a confined space," says Captain Ken Gallagher of the Valdosta Fire Department.

Tuesday, they picked a lucky firefighter to be lowered into a deep hole at the Willacoochee Water Treatment Plant.  "Its going to be a rookie of course, that's what they are for."

Then train the men using the department's newest equipment how to rescue him.  "I'll give the guys a tentative scenario, say this is what happened and they are going to figure out what to do with my instruction and rescue the individual."

But confined space training is no easy job.  Its some of the most important skills a firefighter will learn because its one of the most dangerous jobs they'll ever attempt.  "60 percent of fatalities in confined spaces are rescuers, and we want to drop that to zero," Gallagher says.

They say the last confined space rescue in the city was over a decade ago.  The man they were attempting to rescue died.  They hope this new equipment and training will assure the next time an incident occurs, both the rescuers and the victim will come out okay.

They say this new equipment could not have been purchased without grant money recently received from the Georgia Office of Homeland Security. So far they've received over $1 million that will help them prepare and train department personnel to react to acts of terrorism.

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