When are we going to train on the good stuff? - The importance of the basics in rescue training


CarolinaFireJournal - By Bob Twomey
By Bob Twomey
07/05/2011 -

Not long ago, I was at a department doing their rope rescue training when I was asked that question. It seemed as though some of the members were concerned that we had not gotten to that point in their training where they were training for the “complex rescues” that come, thankfully, not very often.

As I pondered their question, numerous thoughts came to mind. I had to sort them out and provide an answer that would not dampen their interest or enthusiasm, yet would let them know that all good training — and the eventual real rescues — come in good time. I asked them to consider some things about training.

I asked, “what do you think complex rescue and rigging is, and where does it come from” ? I asked, “how do you think more complex rescues and the associated rescue rigging are done” ? A good discussion followed.

 

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The “basics” are to rescue as a foundation is to a wall. Without all of the basics, how would it be possible to advance to more complex rescue skills, with the knowledge, skill and abilities (KSA’s) to make them happen properly and safely?

I told them ALL rescue ropes, knots and rigging originate from the basics, that is, the basic skills that one begins to learn as a rescuer. The “basics” are to rescue as a foundation is to a wall. Without all of the basics, how would it be possible to advance to more complex rescue skills, with the knowledge, skill and abilities (KSA’s) to make them happen properly and safely? I used knots as an example. All advanced rope rescue skills in numerous rescue venues hinge on that one technical skill — the ability to use rope and knots effectively to accomplish the most basic rescue, or that major highline rescue that may come only once in a few years. Then I went into “preacher mode.”


I told them that every time I came to do training with them, we had to go back and review skills taught several classes and years ago. I asked them two main questions: Why had they not practiced enough between classes to maintain basic skills learned previously? And “how serious were they at REALLY learning what they needed to know, and remember, to advance to technical rope rescue applications?

In 37 years in the rescue service, I have learned that most rescuers need to pick those certain areas of rescue that really interest them — and go for it. Any more, no one, especially a volunteer, seems to have the time it takes to be able to do all there is in rescue. With the standards and protocols added to our other life’s responsibilities, like jobs, family, etc., it comes down to a time issue. However, with a few selected areas of rescue interest, it now becomes more a matter of priority — priority to learn and master ALL of the KSA’s needed to perform advanced rescues professionally, correctly and safely.

A wall is built with individual pieces, that is, that advanced rescue abilities come from well learned — and remembered — basic skills. I went on to tell them that nearly all advanced rescue applications are nothing more than combinations of many basic skills properly selected and combined together to achieve the intended objective. It’s called “rescue.”

Consider the highline rescue in the photos. As advanced as highline rescue rigging is, it is made up of all the basics. The rescuer is using rope, along with basic knots, basic anchor rigging systems, rigging hardware and mechanical advantage systems, and other applicable hardware to create the highline rescue system. Properly done, this advance rescue technique becomes a workable, safe method of high level rescue.

But you have to want to do it — to be the best at it, and this takes learning individual basic skills and practicing them so often that you can rig them in your sleep, to the point you’re tired of rigging them — and then doing it all again, and again. It takes going to rescue schools, seminars and training classes as often as you can. In short, it just takes a dedication to self improvement and learning the rescue skills.

Being a rescuer is not easy. As rescuers, we are called upon daily to know all about what we need to know to get a victim from peril to safety.

So, when are you going to start “training on the good stuff”? It should be when you can learn, remember and apply ALL of the basics! The advanced learning and rigging is a natural evolution to expect from your hard earned ability to apply the simple skills. These capabilities will come over time and with experience. This principle applies to all areas in rescue, be it high-level rope rescue, vehicle extrication, trench rescue, aquatic rescue, all of them.

Being a rescuer is not easy. As rescuers, we are called upon daily to know all about what we need to know to get a victim from peril to safety. This is the challenge I talked about above. However, there is merit to becoming specialized in a few specific rescue operations. Often discussed is the benefit of being a good “general” rescuer or highly specialized in a few areas. Actually, BOTH are good, and it takes both to be specialized.

Year after year, we gain experience from training and calls. This is utilized at every mission. Good “background” knowledge, called hard earned experience, is required to know what you need to know to function as profession rescuers. Add to this the skills and dedication discussed above, and you are on your way to being that rescuer others look up to.

I hope this article, at the very least, gets you thinking about your rescue abilities and the ever-constant need to keep up with the training — and yes, even keeping up with all the basics.

Bob Twomey is the current chief and founder of the North Carolina High Level Extraction Rescue Team, Inc., a volunteer helicopter search and rescue support team based in Transylvania county, N.C. He is the senior helicopter pilot for Wolf Tree Aviation, LLC operating out of Transylvania Community Airport. He also serves as Deputy Chief for Training in Brevard Rescue Squad. He has been active in SAR for 37 years. Twomey can be reached at 828-884-7174 or
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