News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 18, 2012

First responders undergo rope rescue training

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Area first responders practiced their angles Saturday afternoon, learning the ropes of a rescue operation.

Members of five county agencies joined Otter Creek Fire Department with their gear, up on a bridge outside the city’s north end near Scott Street and Grant Avenue. With a fire truck parked alongside the bridge, an outstretched ladder maintained connection to cables reaching down the grassy hill and onto a medical gurney.

Bill Matney, a contract instructor with Bill Matney Rescue Training, said the kind of scenarios practiced Saturday represent a significant number of those performed by fire departments each year.

“This is a simulated, over-the-bank rescue,” he said, explaining the scenario under way about 1 p.m. When vehicles or farm equipment slide down an embankment, responders can utilize a number of rope-related strategies to pull injured parties to safety.

Doug Hanna, assistant chief of Otter Creek, as well as a member of the technical rescue team at the Sugar Creek department, said responders were faced with a very similar issue just two weeks ago when a car drove off into the waters of Otter Creek. The county hosts a number of trained specialists in that type of procedure, but the more the better, he said.

“Basically, we’re doing this to increase our responsiveness to the citizens of Otter Creek,” he said.

A good technical rescue team requires 12 to 16 members, he said, adding this is tough for county departments to maintain individually. Ultimately, he’d like to see one county-wide team with representatives from multiple departments.

The 32-hour course entailed four 8-hour days on weekends this month. At about $6,000 in training costs, 20 participants learned the “basic building block” of skills needed to perform rope rescues, he said. His department recently purchased $15,000 in the necessary gear to perform such maneuvers, and he said a more advanced course might be available in the spring.

Hidekatsu Kajitani, a paramedic and captain of the Sugar Creek Fire Department’s special operations team, said the tower rescue he performed in January 2005 fell into the advanced category of a “technician” rescue.

“That was a high-angle rescue,” he said, adding that type of procedure is classified as a “high-hazard, low-frequency.” That rescue involved a 625-foot radio tower with a man dangling about 475 feet above ground.

Kajitani said maintaining the skills to perform such  rescues is tough because they happen so infrequently. Training programs such as those this weekend go a long way in helping the group, he said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or