The Commack Fire Department got itself into a
tight squeeze last Thursday when volunteers practiced rescue techniques within
a 14-inch crawl space at the Huntington Recycling Center on Townline Road in
Commack’s team is one of the automatic response teams for the townships of Huntington and Smithtown, and is immediately notified to respond to any Technical Rescue emergency in either township.
Suffolk County Technical Rescue Coordinator John Bicocchi, along with Anthony Tedeschi, an instructor from The Suffolk County Fire Academy, and Rusty Carey, Shift Supervisor and Safety Coordinator for Covanta Energy, set up a scenario where a worker went into a confined space inside the plant in one of the incinerator towers. According to a press release, the team members had to traverse six stories of catwalks just to reach the space carrying hundreds of pounds of equipment such as air tanks, ropes, harnesses and airlines. The worker was said to be cleaning the inside of the space and collapsed for an unknown reason.
Rescuers arrived to find an unconscious victim (a plastic dummy) inside a space approximately 15x15-feet and around 30 inches high. The opening to the space was 14-square-inches, which made for a very difficult operation. The air quality of the space was monitored with multiple explosion meters and rescuers donned masks hooked up to airlines and entered the space.
The firefighters crawled on their hands and knees to reach the ‘victim’ and secure him in what is known as a stokes basket, a portable stretcher with sides on it so a victim can be secured without falling out. It took just over 7 minutes from the time the team entered the space to the time the victim was packaged and removed.