News: Preparedness at Locks 27
GRANITE CITY, Ill. — The 911 call went out at 7:20 a.m. from the lock house at the Corps of Engineers Locks 27 on the Chain of Rocks Canal in Granite City, Ill. The dispatcher received the report that there was a fire in the engine room of a towboat and that there was at least one injured crewmember. The fire chief from the Granite City fire department was the first on the scene and took charge of the response.
The scenario described above was an emergency exercise St. Louis District personnel went through at Locks 27 with emergency responders from Granite City and Madison, Ill., as well as the U.S. Army Reserves’ 376th Engineer Firefighter Detachment. Nearly 20 firefighters and paramedics participated in the hour and a half drill, which was staged onboard Lewis and Clark Marine’s MV Miranda Paige.
The drill, which was ten months in the making, was the first the District had coordinated in several years at Locks 27. Although the firefighters are familiar with the facility and have done tabletop exercises of an emergency there, this was the first hands-on event of this type were they had descend to the towboat in the lock chamber, battle a simulated fire in the tight confines of the boat’s engineroom and recover an injured crewmember.
During the exercise, a quick assessment determined that the fastest and safest way to get the firefighters to the emergency on the boat was via a workboat moored outside the lock chamber on the upstream end. Although feasible, the 25-foot vertical descent down the lockwall to the deck of the workboat would have been a cautious and slow endeavor for the responders.
With the successful recovery of the injured crewmember, the exercise was halted and equipment was stowed. A quick debrief was conducted by the firefighters and paramedics as they got a chance to take a breath and cool down before going back on duty, to await a real emergency. Shortly thereafter, a more thorough review of the event was conducted by the leadership of all of those involved. Starting with the planning of the drill and going through its execution, all aspects were reviewed and discussed to determine what worked, what didn’t work and what could have been improved.
“This exercise identified a lot of things, both good and bad, about responding to an emergency inside the lock chamber,” explains Marty Jung, River Safety Coordinator for the St. Louis District. “For example, we now know that USACE personnel may be the first responders for evacuating able-bodied persons and that we need to further coordinate with neighboring facilities.”
All parties involved were pleased, overall, by how the event unfolded, encouraging the continuation of additional drills. The next drill in store will be to recover an injured worker one of the confined spaces within the lock itself, requiring the responders to immobilize the worker and safely move that person up 80-feet vertically to where he or she can be treated.
“After going through this event, we discovered that this wasn’t just a training exercise for us (USACE), but for everyone involved,” Jung said. “I went into this looking at our level of preparedness and all of us came out knowing a lot more and knowing that we need to do more exercises like this.”
Date Posted:05.24.2012 15:55
Location:GRANITE CITY, IL, US
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