By Darin Perkins, manager, Environmental, Health & Safety
When it comes to safety, relationships are key. Relationships between employees, relationships between employees and supervisors, and relationships between CAP staff and community response teams. Good relationships help create a safer work environment.
CAP’s Environmental, Health & Safety (EH&S) team has worked hard to build relationships with the fire departments and districts that have jurisdiction along our system to ensure they understand who we are, what part of our system is within their service area, and the types of hazards to which our employees are exposed. Their familiarity with our system can be crucial in the event of an emergency.
As a result of these relationships, the City of Mesa Fire Department requested access to the CAP system to conduct confined space training for many of the Valley technical rescue teams (TRTs). When there is an incident requiring the expertise of these crews, it’s possible that crews from different departments will respond. Consequently, it’s important that the crews train together and are familiar with each other’s abilities.
CAP was happy to partner for this training opportunity, and after securing the approval from the appropriate workgroups, the transducer vault at the Mesa Turnout was offered as the training location. The TRTs jumped at the opportunity to train in a transducer vault, which is an underground room that allows access to the turnout pipes and the equipment (transducers) that measure the flow of water through the pipes.
The first emergency training event took place the morning of November 15. I was onsite to oversee as TRTs from Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and other departments participated in the exercise.
In this scenario, I provided the teams with some very basic information: two CAP employees were on site. Employee A had gone down into the vault to do some spray painting on the walls with an epoxy-based paint, while employee B remained up top, outside of the vault. After several minutes of work, employee B could no longer communicate with employee A. Employee B contacted me, told me of the situation and I headed toward the site. Upon arriving on site about 20 minutes after the initial call from employee B, I could not locate either employee and presumed both were down in the vault.
With that basic information, the training event officially began, and TRTs began establishing their various responsibilities and gathering their equipment. Air lines were set up. Rescue gear, including a tripod, was put in place over and near the vault hatch and a safe entry plan created. Once the various roles were established and information was communicated, the rescue crew – a two-person team – proceeded down into the vault and packaged up the “victims.” They and the other team members up top then proceeded to extricate each victim so they could be transported for medical attention. The entry crew was then able to exit the vault.
After the training exercise, the group held an after-action review to discuss what went well and what could have been done differently. As a part of that review process, I noted that CAP’s focus is to avoid the need for rescues, so we have strong confined space entry programs and procedures in place, and employees who are well-trained in those procedures. While the TRTs did a great job in the training exercise, the fact is that in a real-life response scenario, it will take a significant amount of time for the teams to arrive, set up their equipment and affect any type of rescue. The best option is to not need to call for rescue services.
As one of its core values, CAP takes employee safety very seriously. We can all do our part by ensuring we understand safe work practices, and then by following them and helping ensure our coworkers do the same.
The training with the valley Technical Rescue Teams continued each Tuesday through the end of the year.