Two small boys are playing in storm drains outside their homes in West Carson City when they become separated. One boy runs to find the parents of his missing playmate. The missing boy's father climbs into the storm drain. The missing boy appears, but now his father is unresponsive in a concrete drainage tunnel.
This was the scenario given to 14 firefighters Wednesday during training in confined space rescue organized by Carson City Fire Department Training Chief Dan Shirey. Representatives from all engine companies were present at the staging area on King Street. Shirey said two more training sessions are scheduled so all firefighters receive the class.
"About 150 feet down the storm drain is a 100-pound mannequin," Shirey said. It's the job of the crews on scene to organize a rescue effort and send in a crew to find the missing "father."
"I didn't tell them where the mannequin is. They have to search the drains," he said.
First, the air in the tunnels is tested for toxicity. Then a pump set up to pipe fresh air in. Pulley systems are put into place to attach to the firefighters going into the tunnels, and different this time from previous training are the two thermal imaging systems on loan to the department. The borrowed equipment can see hot spots helping rescuers locate the injured party. Shirey said his department will soon buy their own systems with grant money.
One inside the tunnel, the team of two is in constant radio contact with the crews outside. Attached by rope to pulleys and with air masks on, all was quiet for about 2 minute intervals as the duo rushed through the tunnel looking for the injured man.
"We have found the patient, he is unconscious but breathing," they called out over the radio.
Inside the tunnel, ropes are tied to the mannequin and ground crews pulled the mannequin to safety.
"OK, that's great," Shirey said, telling them once the mannequin was at the mouth of the tunnel, they didn't need to bring it up from the trench.
"Here you go," he said passing down a wheeled cart. "Can you put him back in farther than where he was for the next group."
Back into the tunnel they went, dragging the dummy behind them.
Shirey said the department trains quarterly on hazardous material and confined space rescues. Wednesday's training was in addition to their regular training schedule.