Lessons Learned from a Confined Space Rescue LODD

Confined space fatalities are often associated with atmospheric hazards and the “would-be rescuer syndrome.” In this incident which occurred ten years ago, a public works employee and the firefighter who first attempted to rescue him were killed. This post is a summary of the NIOSH LODD Report.

The Incident

On September 6, 2010, a firefighter was killed when he entered a confined space to rescue a utility worker. The incident occurred in a sewer manhole right behind the firehouse. Several firefighters had been on-location while public works employees worked on a sewer problem.

After one of the public works employees entered the space and immediately became unconscious, one of the firefighters who was on-location entered the space to retrieve him prior to any atmospheric monitoring being performed. After making it halfway down the ladder, the firefighter also became unconscious and fell the rest of the way into the confined space. At that point, atmospheric monitoring was conducted, and a technical rescue team was requested to assist. Witnesses stated the oxygen readings in the space were between 11 – 14%. Both the public works employee and the firefighter died from asphyxia and exposure to sewer gases.

Source: NIOSH LODD Report

Lessons Learned

The most important lesson learned from this incident is that first responders must be trained to a minimum of the awareness level in confined space rescue. It is critically important that first responders understand what confined spaces are, recognize the hazards that exist in them, and know how to request additional resources to the scene of these incidents.

Other lessons learned include ensuring your agency has a standard operating guideline (SOG) for responding to confined space rescue incidents. Even if your agency is only going to provide an awareness level response, developing a response SOG will still help ensure your organization’s members know what actions to take (and not take) at these types of emergencies. If you are going to respond at the operations or technician levels, SOGs are still very important because they define your organization’s expectations on how to safely operate at these incidents.

Furthermore, SOGs and real-world responses to these types of emergencies must include the use of the incident management system and assigning a safety officer that is knowledgeable in confined space rescue. Another very important position to assign at confined space rescue incidents is the “Attendant.” This individual prevents unauthorized entry into the space. Nobody should enter the confined space unless authorized by the rescue supervisor and/or incident commander!

Confined Space Rescue Training

Elder Technical Rescue Services, LLC offers Confined Space Rescue Awareness (3 hours), Confined Space Rescue Operations (16 hours), and Confined Space Rescue Refresher (8 hours) training programs. Our operations level program is now available in a blended learning format, and can be utilized by individual students and groups. Contact us to setup a class for your agency.

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

Tech Rescue Standards: NFPA 1006 and 1670

As an instructor and curriculum writer I have delved deeply into the NFPA Standards, especially NFPA 1006 and 1670.  However, not everyone else has the time, energy, or attention span to truly “get into the weeds” and read the standards for themselves.  This often results in individuals being confused about what the NFPA 1006 and 1670 standards are and are not.  In this blog post, I am going to attempt to succinctly summarize what the two standards mean for first responders!


NFPA develops consensus-based standards that cover virtually every aspect of emergency response.  There are now over 300 NFPA standards, and the technical committees that write the standards are comprised of individuals from many different types of organizations.  NFPA standards are NOT just for fire departments.

Anyone can create a free account on and gain free view-only access to all of their standards.  You may also become a paying member of the organization and/or purchase printed or electronic copies of the standards licensed to you for professional use.

NFPA 1006

NFPA 1006 is the Standard for Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications. NFPA 1006 establishes the minimum job performance requirements (JPRs), or competencies, for individuals seeking a specific level of training or certification in the various technical rescue disciplines. As of the 2017 edition, there are nineteen disciplines of technical rescue recognized by NFPA 1006 (and 1670). The standard recognizes three levels of training for each discipline – Awareness, Operations, and Technician.

I use NFPA 1006 to develop the Elder Technical Rescue Services, LLC curriculum.  Since I issue certificates to individuals that complete my classes, naturally it makes sense that I refer to the standard that applies to individuals when writing my curriculum.

Some people refer to themselves as being “NFPA 1006 certified.”  This is really a misnomer.  NFPA 1006 is just the standard that identifies the competencies an individual should have.  Any organization can develop curriculum and train individuals based on the competencies identified in NFPA 1006. Individuals identifying themselves as “NFPA 1006 certified” most likely mean they took written and practical testing accredited by a certification granting body such as The ProBoard or IFSAC.

NFPA 1670

NFPA 1670 is the Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents. NFPA 1670 applies to an organization’s functional capability when responding to technical search and rescue incidents. The keyword in the previous sentence is, “organization.” The standard even specifically states, “It is not the intent of this document to be applied to individuals and their associated skills and/or qualifications” (Chapter 1.1.3).

This standard requires organizations perform a hazard analysis and risk assessment of their jurisdiction to determine what level of response they will provide. Just like NFPA 1006, this standard breaks down the level of response capabilities into Awareness, Operations, and Technician levels. An agency may decide to respond at the Awareness level to one discipline, but Operations or Technician to another based on the hazards that exist in their jurisdiction and their team’s capabilities.

NFPA 1670 provides further guidance to emergency services organizations regarding how they provide technical rescue services.  If you are interested, check out our Rescue Company Management online class which teaches you about many of these other aspects of NFPA 1670.

Important Note!

NFPA 1006 and 1670 do not tell rescuers how  to perform a technical rescue.  They just tell us what we should be able to do.  Nowhere in the standards does it state you must always use G-rated equipment, 1/2″ diameter rope, or rig everything with a 15:1 safety factor.  All of these types of decisions are left up to the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), which is the organization where you work or volunteer.  If you ever hear an instructor say “NFPA says we have to do it this way” then you should probably think about retaking that class with someone else!

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

Floodwater LODD: Lessons Learned

Yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of a firefighter LODD that occurred during floodwater rescue operations.  Firefighters had been on-scene where multiple cars were stuck in floodwater.  Initially, they were standing by to turn the scene over to police because there were no entrapments.  While waiting for police to arrive, they were notified that there was a civilian in the floodwater.  What they could not see from the surface though, was that the civilian was standing at the top of a 10 ft. deep culvert.

Two firefighters made their way to the civilian.  Both firefighters ended up being pulled under the water due to the floodwater draining into a large diameter pipe (read more about differential pressures here).  Unfortunately, one of the firefighters was pulled all the way into the pipe and was discharged several blocks away from the scene.  The other firefighter and civilian survived the ordeal.

200102bSource: NIOSH

Lessons Learned:

Emergency services organizations must perform a hazard analysis and risk assessment of their community.  Where there is a possibility of floodwater rescue incidents occurring, organizations should identify the probable locations of flooding and train their personnel, at a minimum, to the awareness level.  Standard operating guidelines should be developed and implemented that emphasize performing a thorough scene size-up and following the water rescue sequence (self, reach, throw, row, go).  Finally, organizations should provide their personnel with the appropriate personal protective equipment for engaging in floodwater rescue operations!

Click here to read the full NIOSH LODD Report.

Elder Technical Rescue Services, LLC offers Flood Rescue Awareness (3 hours) and Flood Rescue Skills Development (12 hours) training.  Please contact us to set up a class for your agency.  Stay safe!

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

New Course – Advanced Rescue Techniques!

I’m happy to announce a new course has been added to our training catalog.  Advanced Rescue Techniques (16 hours) is designed to expand upon the students’ existing operations level skills with additional tactics, techniques, and procedures. The program can be customized to meet the needs of the students but will always include a review of relevant background information, standards and regulations, patient assessment and packaging, and advanced practical scenarios.

Agencies scheduling this course will select the specific disciplines and techniques they wish to focus on in the program. Techniques from the rope, confined space, tower, and water rescue disciplines can be selected. Training officers will be given a list of all the advanced skills available with reference to the current NFPA 1006 standard, and we will work with them to create a custom course of instruction.


If you are interested in setting up a custom Advanced Rescue Techniques course for your agency, let me know!  I am very excited to offer truly customizable rescue training programs based on the needs of your agency.

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

Tropical Storm Isaias Flooding

Thank you to all the first responders on-duty as Tropical Storm Isaias has been rocking the East Coast today.  Special shout out to the Southeastern PA first responders in our neck of the woods.  Take a look at the graph below from the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.


The graph shows that the minor flood stage for the Chester Creek near Chester, PA starts at 8 feet, and the height today reached into the major flood stage range at 17.1 feet.  It also shows how quickly the water is going to recede over the next 24 hours.  Remember, as the water recedes, the threat of differential pressures developing increases.

Differential pressure is caused by two bodies of water equalizing (i.e., flood water entering a storm drain).  This differential pressure can develop thousands of pounds of force and pull first responders under water.  Read more about this topic in one our earlier blog posts – Lessons Learned from a Water Rescue LODD.

We offer Flood Rescue Awareness (3 hours) and Flood Rescue Skills Development (12 hours) classes.  Contact us today to set up a class for your agency.

Stay safe!

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