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Fire/EMS will train for ‘confined’ rescues

November 28, 2018

It’s going to cost Jackson Hole Fire/EMS $50,000 to implement confined space training but Teton County Facilities Manager Paul Cote says it’s going to be worth every penny.

“I realized we had a confined space at the Search and Rescue building but that we didn’t have a formal program in place to address it,” Cote said. “It’s an OSHA requirement that any employer with a confined space have entry training.”

Confined spaces are areas within a workplace that are big enough for someone to enter, have limited or restricted entry and exit and are not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

Examples include crawl spaces without ventilation, sewers or whiskey stills.

Cote brought up the lack of a confined space rescue team about a year ago, and county and town officials have been working to implement training for it.

“Fire/EMS picked it up, and they’ve come around to putting talk into action, which is commendable,” Cote said.

Local government, general industry and the construction industry are all required to have an identified rescue team in case there’s an injury in a confined space.

“We did a needs assessment to look at what gaps we had in training and equipment,” said Brian Coe, battalion chief of training for Jackson Hole Fire/EMS. “We identified a significant training gap. We have some overlaps of ropes and hazardous materials training but confined spaces is a specific element.”

Jackson Hole Fire/EMS has chosen six employees to send to training at Texas A&M.

“Those technicians will then come back and train at operations level here,” Coe said.

They expect to be up to speed by June 2019, Coe said.

Training the crew will cost $30,000. Getting the necessary equipment is estimated to cost around $20,000.

The goal is to eliminate any hazards when it comes to entering confined spaces in Teton County, Cote said.

“It’s going to be a big expense,” he said. “It’s a lot of work and chances are they may never use it. But if that day ever comes we’ll be glad we have it.”

Confined space rescues are dangerous, and Coe said the training will provide first responders and victims a better chance at survival.

“A majority of fatalities in confined spaces are would-be rescuers,” Coe said

Coe said there have been incidents in Teton County in which the training would have come in handy.

“This year someone fell into a large unfinished basement that was under construction, and we had to improvise,” Coe said. “Luckily there were no additional hazards.”

A Sept. 28 trench collapse in Teton County that killed two men is still under investigation by the Teton County Sheriff’s Office and the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The recovery of Juan Baez-Sanchez and Victoriano Garcia-Perez’s bodies was a specialized version of confined space rescue, Coe said.

“There was multicollapse potential there,” Coe said. “We try to do the best thing for the victims and their families in a timely manner while trying not to put first responders is more hazardous conditions.”

Coe said confined spaces training is a large undertaking for the fire department.

“Another big thing is making sure we can sustain the program in the future,” Coe said. “It has challenges and costs. For that we do intend on doing it for a fee if we are asked by a private entity to stand by.”

Once Jackson Hole Fire/EMS establishes a confined space rescue team, it plans to branch into trench rescue training.

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