Urban Search and Rescue
Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) is actually a new name for many of the specialty rescue services that have been around for years. Combining these different rescue disciplines allows for the rescue technicians to build upon the common elements of each.
Realizing the need for additional preparation in the event of a large scale disaster, such as an earthquake, the office of the Oregon State Fire Marshal has orchestrated a state-wide response effort. This multi-agency effort including the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Oregon Army National Guard and fire service providers. Together they provide trained technical rescue technicians along with an extensive collection of tools and equipment anywhere in Oregon around the clock, seven days a week. Clackamas Fire District #1 is proud to be a founding member of the Oregon USAR Task Force.
The Clackamas Fire USAR Teams specialize in the following rescue disciplines:
When a disaster strikes natural or man-made buildings, bridges and other structures often fall trapping people within. Saving people trapped under the heavy weight of a building is challenging, especially while other parts of the building may be unstable and threaten to fall. Leaking gas, exposed electrical power lines and leaking water mains often complicate rescue efforts.
The Clackamas Fire USAR Team’s technicians receive extensive training in locating trapped people, operating specialized cutting equipment, shoring, bracing and lifting structural members. Some of this special equipment allows the team members to cut through thick concrete and heavy steel members. These special skills are immediately available throughout the district and neighboring areas whenever the need arises.
A confined space is any space that is not intended to be occupied by a human and has poor or limited access. These spaces include industrial storage tanks, rail cars and underground sewer pipes. Often they have other hazards present like electricity, toxic gases, mechanical equipment and infectious waste which increase the danger to rescuers.
In 1997, the district began an intensive training program for confined space emergency rescue. Those who have received specialized training are certified as Confined Space Rescue Technicians. In addition, all district firefighters are trained to operate around confined spaces and to support the rescue efforts of the Confined Space Rescue Technicians.
The many steep cliffs lining the Clackamas River present an ongoing danger to the public. Swimmers looking for a swimming spot or a fisherman looking for a new fishing hole on the river can quickly find themselves trapped in a dangerous spot. Other times it can be a worker high up on a radio tower or on a construction site that needs assistance. Training to use ropes to reach injured people high off the ground, securing them and then bring them to safety, that is the essence of vertical rescue.
With a boom in construction and development throughout the district comes the need to improve services and utilities such as water, sewer, natural gas and electricity. Many of these utilities are safely located deep underground out of harms way. But to get these pipes, power lines and vaults underground deep trenches must be dug – this is when tragedy can strike. Workers digging in soft, unstable soils can be trapped deep within earthen trenches when the walls of the trench collapse under the weight of dirt and rocks. These situations often prove fatal for the victim trapped and pose a high risk for the rescuer. Secondary trench collapse, flooding from broken water mains, ruptured gas and live electrical wires are often present in a trench emergency.
The USAR technicians are trained and certified to national standards as Trench Rescue Technicians. Often specialized equipment such as earth moving equipment, cranes, shoring cages and water evacuating equipment must be brought in to assist in the rescue. Working together with other emergency responders, utility workers and contractors this rescue effort is truly a team effort. The firefighters of the district coordinate rescue efforts to ensure the quickest and safest rescue possible.
Daily, the firefighters of Clackamas Fire District #1 respond on emergencies that involve automobiles. In many cases, the injured are entrapped in the vehicle, caught with twisted metal collapsed around them. Sometimes it may be an industrial worker or a farmer injured on the farm caught, tangled or pinned by heavy machinery and equipment. Each rescue situation varies: vehicles submerged in rivers, small automobiles crushed by weight of large trucks, and freezing winter weather in the dark of night.
All district firefighters, paid and volunteer are trained to operate rescue equipment that will open up a vehicle to free a trapped patient. On more challenging rescues, the firefighters on the technical rescue companies will work together with other responders to complete the rescue. Daily, the firefighters of Clackamas Fire District #1 rise to meet the emergency before them.