Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Multi-Agency Confined Space Rescue Drill

Multiple agencies cooperating in the simulation

 A multi company, multi agency drill was held today in Alpine to prepare for possible confined space rescue operations involving construction crews working on the SDG&E Sunrise Powerlink. The event was hosted by SDG&E and the Alpine Fire Protection District. The two year construction project is well under way and will involve the underground routing of high voltage power lines along Alpine Blvd. The underground section of the Powerlink will span 6.2 miles from Alpine’s eastern boundary to its western border. The drill simulated the rescue of a worker injured in a fall located at the bottom of an electrical junction vault fifteen feet below the road surface. A rescue operation of this type is complicated by many possible hazards including; energized electrical equipment, tight access and egress, potentially dangerous air quality, hampered communication, working below grade and road traffic to name just a few. 

A specially trained Santee firefighter prepares to enter the underground vault.

To safely mitigate these hazards required the involvement of  two battalion chiefs, seven engine companies, one rescue unit, one confined space rescue trailer, one ambulance, technical assistance from SDG&E and PAR Electrical Contractors and traffic control personnel. A total of forty people were kept busy in various roles to complete the successful rescue of just one injured worker. Personnel and equipment were utilized from the cooperating fire agencies of Alpine, Lakeside, Santee, Viejas, Sycuan and San Diego Rural. Technical information and assistance was provided by experts from SDG&E and PAR Electrical Contractors which proved to be invaluable for the safety of the rescue crews. 

The injured worker (mannequin) hoisted from the vault
The simulated injury to the worker took place in an underground electrical vault measuring approximately 10’ wide by 12’ tall by 30’ long which will be used as one of many junction points for the 230 kV power lines that will run in conduit under Alpine Blvd. A total of forty junction vaults will eventually be set in place to complete the underground section running through Alpine. Today’s drill will be repeated two more times this month to give additional crews the opportunity to be exposed to this specialized rescue scenario that has the potential to play out in reality over the course of this project.  Important lessons learned today include the importance of cooperation between on scene construction experts and responding agencies as well as the continuing cooperation and training between the multiple fire agencies that will likely be called to this potential emergency.

Submitted by: Chuck Palmore, Lakeside Fire Captain

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