Pre-Planning Elevator Rescues, Part 1/2

Elevators are incredibly complex machinery systems, and they are also one of the more common causes of machinery rescue incidents in urban and suburban areas.  One strategy for improving your agency’s response to elevator rescue incidents is to get out and start pre-planning the elevators in your community.  In our next two posts, we will talk about some of the different sections you may want to include in your elevator rescue pre-plan.

Elevator Maintenance Company

This is one of the most important pieces of information to pre-plan.  Ideally, removal of occupants from a stalled elevator should be performed by the elevator maintenance company.  Even when an emergency situation exists and first responders must perform the rescue, it is still important to ensure the elevator company has been called.  At the very least, the elevator company will need to make any necessary repairs and place the elevator back in service.

Location of the Elevator(s)

Facilities may have multiple elevators located in different parts of the building.  These different elevators may each serve different floors and/or may even be different types of elevators.  If a 911 caller says that they are experiencing a heart attack in elevator three, do you know where elevator three is in that building?


The pictures above show elevators 1 – 3 in an office building.  The elevators, mainline disconnects, and car light switches are all labeled accordingly.  However, it is also important to realize that this building has three additional elevators labeled 4 – 6.  Those elevators are on the other end of the building and have their own elevator machine room.  Pre-planning the locations of these elevators can help save time when someone is trapped in the elevator and experiencing a medical emergency.

Next week we will discuss some additional pieces of information that should be included in an elevator rescue pre-plan.

We include a section discussing elevator types and hazards in our Machinery Rescue Awareness (3 hours) class.  For more in-depth information related to elevator emergencies, check out Dragon Rescue Management, Inc.

Bill Elder
Owner / Lead Instructor
Elder Technical Rescue Services, LLC

Confined Space Rescue Operations (Blended Learning) Coming Soon!

We are excited to announce that we are currently reviewing the first draft of our upcoming Confined Space Rescue Operations (Blended Learning) program.  This course will allow students to complete the cognitive portion of Confined Space Rescue Operations class online, at their own pace.  Upon completion of the online component, the student will participate in a full day of hands-on practical skills training in order to receive the Confined Space Rescue Operations (16 hours) Certificate of Continuing Education.


The pre-requisites for this course will be previous Hazardous Materials Operations Level and Rope Rescue Operations Level training.  For those totally new to the technical rescue world, this course will be available as a bundle with our existing Rope Rescue Operations (Blended Learning) course.

We still have a lot of work to do on this program, but we wanted to let you know that it is on the way.  We are dedicated to providing high-quality and flexible training options that produce competent rescuers.

Bill Elder
Owner / Lead Instructor
Elder Technical Rescue Services, LLC

Technical Rescue Incidents and Mental Health

Technical rescues can present unique challenges to rescuers’ mental health for many reasons. Technical rescues are distinctly challenging and incredibly memorable. They can be “once in a career” incidents. These types of calls are exceptionally stressful for rescuers because the likelihood of injury or fatality to the victim is high. These events are also full of perishable skills that we do not remember if we don’t practice them often and this can lead to higher levels of stress while we are on scene. For these reasons technical rescue incidents can be more mentally taxing than physically. The outcome of the incident will significantly affect how we process and recover from it.

As rescuers we are problem-solvers by nature. We are people who can be depended on to solve a variety of problems under less than ideal circumstances. But what happens when we have a problem we don’t know how to solve? Research consistently shows that first responders have higher rates of depression, addiction, and suicide. This is due to the trauma that we witness and due to the fact that we aren’t taught how to process it. We aren’t given the language to say, “I felt really helpless during that call” or “we did everything we could and it didn’t make a difference.”

Most rescuers have experienced some post-traumatic stress symptoms. These take place within the first few days after a call and can include nightmares, trouble eating and repeated reliving of the call. After a few sleep cycles and good meals, we usually go back to our baseline. But if the symptoms last past the first few days and even past the first month, we can find ourselves struggling with something more significant.

It is important we take care of each other. Say you find yourself having trouble sleeping after a challenging technical rescue incident. Or maybe you notice one of your team members is having a hard time letting go of a call that had a bad outcome. What do you do? Start by asking him or her if they are okay and truly listen to what they say. Maybe a conversation with you, someone who was also there will help ease their mind that you in fact did all you could. Know what resources are available if you or they need more. Know if your department offers access to a therapist and what that process looks like. Know how to access your local peer support, critical incident stress management (CISM) team, or department chaplain.


For more information and training opportunities regarding mental health for first responders, visit On the Job and Off.

Register for our upcoming online open enrollment class, Developing Resiliency: On the Job and Off, being conducted on July 20 at 7:00pm EST!

Ali W. Rothrock
CEO & Lead Instructor
On the Job and Off


Tips for the Trench Rescue Professional

This week is Trench Safety Stand Down Week, sponsored by the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA).  So far this week we have taught two of our Trench Rescue Awareness programs for first responders, and today we are sharing a new blog post focused towards our readers that are trained to the operations or technician level in trench rescue.  Our instructors are each sharing one tip with you related to trench rescue operations.


Instructor Larry – Scene Control and Management

Trench rescue incidents can become worse by rushing in and causing greater damage to the victim.  There have been many cases of the “would-be rescuer syndrome” that afflicts the confined space field also occurring in the trench and excavation environment.  It is important that the first-arriving responder establish command and start to take control of the scene.  Remove would-be rescuers from the trench, shut down running equipment, and start to reduce risk by placing ladders and ground pads in and around the trench.

Instructor Bill – Shoring Operations

Remember the 2-4-2 rule of thumb.  Your top and bottom struts should be placed no more than 2 feet from the top and bottom of the trench wall.  There should also be no more than 4 feet between each strut.  When dealing with an 8 feet deep trench, two struts will theoretically be sufficient based on this rule.  However, consider using three struts even in an 8 feet deep trench for added safety, especially if operating in the recovery mode and not in rescue mode.  Do not risk a rescuer’s life to recover a dead body.

Instructor Rob – Equipment Retrieval

Once the patient is removed from the trench, rescue teams will typically want to retrieve their equipment, especially if they were using pneumatic struts for their shoring.  Take a deep breath after the extrication is complete, and mentally prepare for the removal of equipment from the trench.  If you used pneumatic struts to complete the rescue, your team may consider installing wood struts adjacent to them in order for the pneumatic struts to be removed safely.  No matter how you decide to handle the equipment retrieval, do not let your guard down, many hazards will still be present.

The Elder Technical Rescue Services, LLC Instructor Team

Confined Space Atmospheric Hazards, Part 4/4

We have finally arrived at Part 4 of our Confined Space Atmospheric Hazards series.  We have already discussed some general concepts and principles of performing atmospheric monitoring at confined space incidents, oxygen-related hazards, and explosive atmosphere hazards.  In this post, we are going to focus on the two toxic gas sensors that most emergency services agencies use – carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas produced by the process of incomplete combustion.  The Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) level of CO is 1,200 ppm.  Most four-gas detectors are set to begin alarming at the “low” level when the CO level reaches 35 ppm, which is the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL).  35 ppm is not enough to immediately kill or incapacitate a person, but it does tell you that there are hazardous atmospheric conditions inside the confined space and that you should utilize the appropriate type of respiratory protection if entering.

Carbon monoxide’s explosive range falls between 12.5% and 74%, which is relatively wide and can be easily encountered in confined spaces.  Lastly, CO’s vapor density is 0.97, which means it is just slightly “lighter than air.”  This means you will possibly find CO close to the top of the confined space, but it may also be present throughout the space.

Hydrogen Sulfide

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a colorless gas that has a strong smell of rotten eggs.  While the gas is easily perceptible initially, it can also wipe out your sense of smell.  Obviously, this is why we need to rely on our gas detectors and respiratory protection and not our sense of smell at confined space incidents.  H2S is naturally produced by decaying organic matter and is commonly found in confined spaces.

The IDLH for H2S is 100 ppm, which means it is more toxic than CO.  Most four-gas detectors will alarm at 10 ppm, which is the NIOSH REL for H2S.  The explosive range is 4% – 44%, which makes it slightly lower, but also narrower than CO.  Lastly, the vapor density of H2S is 1.19, which means it is “heavier than air” and will be found at the bottom of the confined space.


Real-World Scenario

On January 16, 2017, three workers in Florida were killed and one firefighter was injured in a confined space.  Workers were investigating a smell of rotten eggs reported by the people living in the neighborhood.  After the first worker entered the confined space and became unconscious, two of his co-workers went in to attempt to perform a rescue and all three of them died.  The firefighter also entered the confined space without an SCBA, but luckily survived.  H2S and Methane were present in the confined space.

Stay safe out there.  Know the hazards and know your gas detectors!

Bill Elder
Owner / Lead Instructor
Elder Technical Rescue Services, LLC