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Specialized firefighter teams ready for high-elevation rescues in British Columbia

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by Richard Gilbert

High-angle rope training is being provided to firefighters in British Columbia through a program that has been expanded to ensure fire departments across the province can rescue construction workers at high elevations.
High-Elevation rope rescue
High-Elevation rope rescue

VANCOUVER

High-angle rope training is being provided to firefighters in British Columbia through a program that has been expanded to ensure fire departments across the province can rescue construction workers at high elevations.

“It’s a unique program and there is no other program funded like this in the world,” said Cathy Lange, a consultant who manages the Technical High-Angle Rope Rescue Programme (THARRP) for the B.C. Construction Safety Alliance.

“We pay for the training of instructors and they must make a commitment of three years once they get the training.”

Contractors in B.C. are required by law to provide the necessary high-elevation rescue services for construction workers, as part of their safety protection plan.

However, maintaining a highly-trained and fully-equipped rescue team on standby at construction sites is prohibitively expensive.

In response to this problem, B.C. has devised an original approach to provide training for high-elevation rescues.

THARRP, through WorkSafeBC, provides funding for representatives of selected fire department to achieve training every three years.

These representatives obtain qualifications to train members of their own fire departments in the rescue of victims from high elevations or terrain with a slope angle of 60 degrees or more.

“Its expensive for fire departments to maintain this program,” said John Kenyon, a director at Dynamic Rescue Systems.

“Without this funding, they couldn’t do it. The level of safety and service is increased with the funding.”

The program was launched by WorkSafeBC in 1995 and was initially managed by the Justice Institute.

Another training provider called Roco was added in 2007.

According to Lange, the biggest change for this program in the last year is that the THARRP Program steering committee has recognized several new training providers including companies Dynamic Rescue, Canpro and Raven Rescue.

“It is up to fire departments to get training to national fire protection standards.”

High-elevation rescue is similar to other work already done by firefighters, but it is not generally covered in their basic training.

High-elevation rescue is similar to other work already done by firefighters, but it is not generally covered in their basic training. To fill this gap, firefighters must take 160 hours of rigorous and specialized training.

One fourth of this training deals specifically with tower crane rescues.

Lange said individual fire departments get approval for a certain number of trainers based on the size of the department, the size of the area they are serving and how much construction activity is taking place in the area.

“One of the main advantages to opening it up is that trainers can travel to the specific fire department and give them a lot more for their money,” said Kenyon.

“Basically, what it does is give more flexibility to fire departments to meet their own needs out of the money that is provided to them.”

Kenyon said the services provided to out of town fire departments have been improved through the increase in the number of training providers.

Previously, trainees would incur hotel and travel cost by taking training at the Justice Institute or Roco.

However, not all parts of the province, where high angle rescue is need, are covered.

“There needs to be a fire department and most of the province is served by volunteer fire departments,” said Mark Pfeifer, managing director with Canpro Training Resources.

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