VFD conducts life saving training - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

VFD conducts life saving training

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By Alicia Eakin - bio | email

August 20, 2008

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - The Valdosta fire department is one step closer to becoming the only certified Search and Rescue Task Force in our area.

This week they've conducted high angle rope rescues funded by a one million dollar grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

Once completed, they will be called to any major incident in the region and around the state.

This firefighter is repelling down the side of a tower. Halfway down, his gear malfunctions. Now he's stuck swinging more than a story off the ground. A second firefighter is sent to get him .. dangling upside down.

It's called the pick-off technique, commonly used to rescue trapped construction workers.

"If you for instance a worker or window washer that is stuck in their scaffolding or stuck in their rope. We send a rescuer down, pull them off their rope and bring them back down to safety," says Chris Wessels, GSM Instructor from Atlanta.

In Valdosta, construction sights are as common as azaleas. So this training is vital.

"It has happened. It has happened about six months ago. We had a rescue off one of the construction projects in the city," says Capt. Ken Gallagher of the Valdosta Fire Department.

It also prepares them for potential grave situations in our area, from terrorist attacks to industrial disasters and severe weather.

"I know you've had a problem recently in South Georgia with the tornadoes. If you have building collapses, and there are people inside, they'll get the skills to tunnel through the building and rescue trapped residents," Wessels says.

It's part of 250 hours of training the Valdosta firefighters will receive to become one of a handful of Search and Rescue Task Forces in the state, and the only one in our region.

"There is nothing close to help the citizens in this area, and GEMA realized that," Gallagher says.

"All the GSAR teams throughout the state get the same training, so in a mass disaster we can all function together," adds Wessels.

So whatever disaster may threaten the area, they'll be ready to respond.