Teamwork, training the keys to successful rescue

The dramatic rescue of a window washer dangling from a platform at Stantec Tower last week showed the heights firefighters go to to keep people safe in Edmonton.

And the depth of training that equips them to do their remarkable work.

“All of our firefighters are trained to respond to rescue situations and we have a specialty Technical Rescue Team that responds to these types of emergency events,” said Fire Chief Ken Block with Edmonton Fire Rescue Services.

“Friday’s high angle rescue combined with the challenging weather, was a good example of what we train for—getting to a scene quickly and conducting a professional rescue operation.”

 

“A piece of precision”

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services was called to the scene at exactly 12:52 p.m. on Friday, October 25, when a 911 call came in to the fire dispatch centre.

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There was a report of two men trapped on a swing station on the east side of Stantec Tower.

Fire crews from Stations 1, 2 and 3 arrived on scene within four minutes. Next steps: establish a safety zone on the street and sidewalks, anchor the fire truck and extend its 100-foot ladder towards the stranded window washers. The Technical Rescue Team, with expertise in aerial rescues, was also on scene.

Complicating the response was the wind and the moving target the ladder aimed for.

“There was a lot of movement to deal with,” said Block. “The wind was blowing, the platform was moving and the worker, who was in a safety harness, was moving, as well. It was a piece of precision to get our equipment close enough to get to him and get him to safety.”

Watch below (and listen for the applause from the street at around the 32-second mark!):

The second worker, who had remained on the platform, was also brought down to safety.

Big news

The story was big in Edmonton news media, and went around the world on social media.

Training essential

There is a backstory. It plays out with much less fanfare. It’s the story of training.

“We do everything we can to keep our crews up to date with the knowledge and practice they need to react when an emergency happens,” said Block.

“In this situation our crews were able to respond from the ground. Had the individuals in need of assistance been higher, our Technical Rescue Team would have been needed to rappel down from above to the men in distress.”

The changing shape of the city adds another factor to training, said Block.

“There is a connection between a city becoming denser and taller and what Edmonton Fire Rescue Services needs to be able to respond,” Block said.

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“In the end, it is about teamwork, and how a modern team in a modern city works together,” said Block.

“In this case the team extended from our experts to our first-responder colleagues at the Edmonton Police Service and the Emergency Medical Services who were there when Edmontonians needed them.”

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