Eye on KELOLAND: Training to save lives


BRANDON, S.D. (KELO) — Sioux Falls Fire Rescue does more than fight fires.

The department’s Urban Search and Rescue team is dispatched to the scenes of emergency situations that require specialized skills and equipment for rescue operations.

Those specialized skills come with training.

On this spring morning, CHS in Brandon is allowing Sioux Falls Fire Rescue to use one of its grain bins for training.

“Probably the most important thing we can do is what we call our scene size up, so that just means really getting a good 360 view and talking to personnel on scene and just trying to get a really good understanding of what the current situation is and what we’re going to need to do to affect that rescue,” Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Captain Mike Murphy said.

Captain Mike Murphy is supervising this Urban Search and Rescue team training.

“Everyone with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue is a certified firefighter and EMT, but the individuals here today have gone a little bit above and beyond and are members of our Urban Search and Rescue team which requires quite a bit of additional training and certification,” Murphy said.

The Urban Search and Rescue must complete six disciplines of training each year. Today’s scenario fulfills the confined space requirement.

“A lot different potential hazards just due to the height, the confined space, atmospheric, machinery hazards, there’s a lot of different things that could potentially cause some issues for us,” Murphy said.

Today’s scenario, an employee falls 40 feet inside an empty grain bin and suffers a broken femur. The goal is to bring the injured person out the top of the 125-foot grain bin and down the side to safety.

It’s a low frequency, but very high risk operation.

“It all gets broken down, everybody knows what their job is and you focus on what’s your job. If you start doing other people’s jobs or things you’re not supposed to be doing, you can see things unravel quickly,” SFFR firefighter Phil Paszkiewicz said.

Phil Paszkiewicz has been part of the rescue company for eight years and is a confined space instructor with the technical rescue team.

Atop the grain bin you’ll find the rigging team, entry and attendant team, and hazard mitigation, whose job is to step back and survey the scene.

“From entry to patient packaging to getting on scene and making entry, how can we be more efficient and cut those times down? Every minute we’re on scene is just more time they’re not at the hospital getting the care they need,” Paszkiewicz said.

“The ability to think on your feet, the ability to critically think through problems as they arise and then to work toward a common goal as a team,” Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Firefighter Rob Flannery said.

Rob Flannery is a member of the rigging team, and stresses the importance of this type of training.

“It’s nice to be able to fall back on previous training and then to be able to continue to build cohesiveness through trainings like this to know what the other guy’s doing and try and be on the same page at the same time,” Flannery said.

The reach of this training extends beyond Sioux Falls Fire Rescue.

“Being in Sioux Falls and being surrounded by a lot of great volunteer departments, this isn’t something they get a lot of exposure to and so for us to be able to practice this on a regular basis with our department and then be able to assist any of the volunteer agencies is really a critical part of our response plan,” Murphy said.

Many of these firefighters are part of an even more specialized team.

“Quite a few members of our Sioux Falls Fire Rescue are also members of South Dakota Task Force 1, which is an all-hazards response team that can respond anywhere in the state of South Dakota, if requested,” Murphy said.

The training exercise ends with Urban Search and Rescue lowering the mannequin to the ground.

With farms stretching across KELOLAND, Murphy offers this advice about grain bins.

“Really just monitoring those bins, knowing what the moisture content is, what the hazards are is really important and then probably most importantly, if anything does go wrong, just calling for help right away and getting the right resources there,” Murphy said.

And it all starts with practice.

“We want to be prepared for anything and if and when that day comes when somebody reaches out for help we want to be able to respond,” Murphy said.

The grain bin rescue training took about an hour to complete.

The Urban Search and Rescue team does one week of training each spring and fall to maintain certification.

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