Case Histories

Selected Anecdotal Case Histories

Public Safety – Confined Space Rescue/ICS/Air Monitoring

Firefighters from Rock Hill, South Carolina used the expertise gained in several grant-funded WST courses to complete a confined space rescue in February 2003. The victim had fallen into a vertical sanitary sewer well that was 20 feet deep and 5 feet square.  The initial rescuer was equipped with proper protective gear and lowered into the space to find the victim drowning in raw sewage.  The rescuer cleared the victim’s airway, established cervical-spinal stabilization, and requested assistance from a second rescuer.  Both rescuers then worked to package the patient for removal from the space.  The operation was supported by a number of additional personnel including riggers, haul team members, and personnel in various ICS roles.  A mechanical advantage system and other rigging were required for safely lowering rescuers into the space and removing the packaged patient and rescuers to complete the operation. The patient and both rescuers were safely removed from the space in a timely manner. Gross decontamination was conducted at the scene for the patient and both rescuers. All contaminated clothing was bagged as biomedical waste for proper disposal.  The patient was turned over to EMS personnel for medical treatment and transportation to a medical facility.  The IC ordered the rescuers who entered the space to shower thoroughly, then report for medical monitoring.  Follow-up medical surveillance was conducted for both rescuers, with a major focus on biological hazards.  The patient recovered and the rescuers experienced no adverse effects.  The personnel involved attribute the success of this rescue in part to the training they received through grant-funded WST courses, including IMS, Air Monitoring, and Confined Space/Rope Rescue, all of which were vital to the safe completion of the rescue.

Public Safety – ICS/Hazmat

After responding to an airplane crash, an Apparatus Operator for a municipal fire department in the Birmingham region provided the following comments regarding the efficacy of WST grant-funded IMS training:   “In November 2003, I attended an Incident Command Class at your school. What I found during the two-day class was a well-equipped facility with excellent course preparation. The knowledgeable and energetic staff took a potentially dull subject and used teaching methods that demonstrated the key points and emphasized the command structure like I never experienced in a class before. The main focus of this Incident Management course was the specific function of command. This was a slightly different approach that I had not had from other IMS classes in the past.  Little did I know just a few weeks later that the knowledge that I gained from your instructors would be put to the test in a major way.   “On Wednesday December 10, 2003 in the afternoon the tone sounded at our station and I heard something that I had never heard dispatched before: ‘Plane crash.’  In just a matter of minutes the City’s police and fire departments were almost totally committed. A ten-passenger twin-engine turbo plane had crashed into a creek in the middle of an apartment complex, killing two people. A major haz mat spill resulted from fuel in the creek spreading into two cities. I was in the command post assisting my Battalion Chief, the Incident Commander, with communications for over 16 different government agencies and helping him keep track of the different elements of the command on the master board. The elements of command that were emphasized and demonstrated in class by Sam Hansen all came back to me. Although I was not in command and only played a minor role in assisting command, what needed to be done and how it was to be done was very clear. I can tell you with the utmost certainty that if I had not taken this course and if the course had not been presented in the fashion it was, the assistance that I provided the Incident Commander would have been much different. I just wanted to take a moment to give you some constructive feedback on the course and express my appreciation for the hard work you and your staff do.”

Native American – Meth Lab Awareness

In commenting on the effectiveness of WST grant-funded Clandestine Meth Lab Awareness class held at Shawnee, Oklahoma a member of the Shawnee Tribe stated, “The class was the absolute BEST that I have ever attended.  I learned things I never knew about and definitely became more aware of the happenings in my community.  I believe every person, young and old should hear about the effects that meth labs and users have on their family, their public servants and their neighbors.  My step-son recently decided to try meth, which was and still is a very trying time.  Because of this awareness class, his father (a police officer) and I can keep one step ahead of events that we knew would happen.  I am much better off knowing the facts than dealing with something like this blindly.”

Native American – ICS/NIMS

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians in South Alabama reports that Incident Management Systems training provided by WST has been a tremendous asset in responding to recent hurricane disasters. The Poarch Creek reservation took direct hits from Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis and had a near miss with Hurricane Katrina. An emergency responder with the tribe states: “We gained a lot of expertise through WST’s training and the experience we gained in using the ICS to respond to the devastation that Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis did to our reservation. This expertise allowed us to more effectively help others located in areas to the west of us that were hit hard by Katrina. We worked with the Indian Health Services (IHS) during the Katrina response and our reservation served as a distribution point for supplies. IHS would ship supplies to us in bulk quantities and we would re-pack them in smaller quantities and haul them to Louisiana with our response trailer. We also assisted IHS in shipping supplies to establish shelters for tribal members and others in the community. Our reservation served as a staging area for generators distributed to Louisiana and Texas for victims of Katrina and Rita. We distributed medical supplies to a state-recognized tribe in an area near New Orleans that was hit very hard. We also acted as an information clearinghouse for Tribes severely affected by the Hurricanes by relaying information back and forth between them and Federal and non-profit agencies we were in touch with. The training in ICS and NIMS allowed us to effectively manage logistics, staging, and communication for all these activities, while maintaining accountability and safety of our personnel. In the future, we will host regional response units for the Indian Health Service for a region stretching from Florida to Texas, and the State of Alabama has requested that we host a 50 bed portable hospital for use during future disasters.”

Post-Katrina Disaster Response

An employee of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals who participated in WST’s Safety Awareness for Hurricane Responders Train-the-Trainer course following Hurricane Katrina reported, “I wanted to let you know that shortly after the Train-the-Trainer session, I trained storm recovery personnel of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. They decided to adopt the training as part of the pre-requisite for all volunteers coming into the hurricane affected areas to help in the recovery process and posted the hurricane responder safety awareness PowerPoint presentation on their website. I call tell you, though I can not verify the specific number, that tens of thousands of individuals have accessed the PowerPoint through this medium and the project has been a total success in aiding the UMCOR efforts in Louisiana. I just wanted you know the training efforts were highly successful.”

Native American – Meth Lab Awareness

A member of the Crow Indian Tribe in Montana wrote the following about WST’s Clandestine Meth Lab Awareness course: “I received information on the detrimental effects of Methamphetamine and what to look for. It assisted our Meth-Free Crow Nation Awareness project. It was very effective and educational, and I highly recommend it to ALL Native American Communities in the USA; in fact, all communities and agencies would benefit tremendously from this very important training.”

Public Safety – Air Monitoring

WST has provided several classes to personnel of the Seneca (S.C.) Fire Department, included the 8-hour Air Monitoring for Hazmat Response course. In commenting on the efficacy of the air monitoring training, a member of the Seneca Fire Department stated, “This training is especially valuable because it teaches firefighters what to do in case they’re dispatched to calls where someone is suffering from a respiratory irritation or smells a foul odor. When that happens, our guys can use their air monitoring equipment and find out exactly what’s going on in the atmosphere. This is extra important now because we’re approaching winter and everybody starts firing up his or her furnaces. This will make the firefighters a little more aware of how to deal with carbon monoxide detector alarms and things like that. This training will come in handy for everything from a terrorist nerve gas attack, to radiological monitoring, to a garden variety of chemical spills on a highway. When people think of spills, they automatically think of a big, overturned tanker, but one of the worst types of vehicle incidents we might have to deal with is a merchandise vehicle that carries things like ammonia or chlorine products that might go to a discount store or a shopping center. You might also have an incident where someone goes out to the flea market in Anderson (SC) and buys a load of different chemicals on sale to clean his house, and he has an automobile accident. This training will help our personnel to deal with those types of incidents.”

Public Safety – Hazmat/Meth Lab Awareness

After completing hazardous materials and clandestine drug lab-related training with WST, a member of the Dothan (Alabama) Police Department commented, “I am a Special Response Team member and I have to plan raids on methamphetamine labs. Before this training I was unsure of what to do in a contaminated environment and spent more time worrying about the chemicals than the bad guys. I used a chemical protective suit and SCBA for the first time and actually felt comfortable operating in it before the training was over. Additionally, being a patrol supervisor I learned a lot about handling chemical spills and loose contaminants. This block was extremely useful as a first responder because I had the tools to identify hazardous materials and respond appropriately. Overall the training from WST enabled me to confidently deal with critical incidents arising from hazardous materials. In my opinion this is critical for the first responder.”

Public Safety – ICS/Confined Space Rescue/Air Monitoring

A member of the Mount Pleasant (SC) Fire Department stated. “I am currently the Deputy Technical Rescue Coordinator for the department. In the past I have received training from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Workplace Safety Training Program in Confined Space Rescue, IMS, and air monitoring. These classes have proved to be invaluable over my tenure with the department. I find myself constantly referencing the WST training materials for answers to ensure that I am ready and my crew is ready to mitigate situations effectively and safely. The classes taught by WST have made me a better officer and leader for the department. Recently I used WST Confined Space Rescue training materials to host a refresher for the South Carolina Urban Search and Rescue Taskforce, where I am the Lead Rescue Manager responsible for the rescue discipline training. The students found the material easy to understand and put together very well. Many have stated the information, videos, and examples were excellent. There is no doubt in my mind that courses offered by WST not only train emergency responders to make them better at their jobs but also save livesI believe this is due to the unswerving dedication, professionalism and overall concern for the safety of all emergency responders that is shown by the instructors and the program. WST’s NIEHS-funded program is an invaluable asset to the Emergency Response Community.”

Public Safety – Hazmat

The Tallassee (Alabama) Fire Department has received hazmat training taught by WST. The department was required to use the training on January 30th, 2008 when a fuel cargo tanker wrecked at Exit 22 of Interstate 85. The cargo tank contained 4,400 gallons of gasoline and 4,800 gallons of diesel fuel, of which 1,800 gallons of gasoline and 600 gallons of diesel fuel were released. To bring the incident under control, the Tallassee Fire Department responded along with personnel from two other fire departments, two emergency management agencies, three law enforcement agencies, and DOT. Tallassee personnel spent over 13 hours on scene and used over 200 gallons of foam concentrate to suppress vapors and prevent ignition of the spilled fuel. Regarding the response, an officer with the Tallassee Fire Department stated, “Without the WST training, we would have been unable to mitigate this scene. The curriculum and the hands-on drills allowed us to safely, efficiently, and confidently operate. The level of instruction and the knowledge of the instructors were superb.”

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