Firefighters from West Pierce Fire and Rescue scaled a massive tower crane, then lowered a gurney with a mock victim 175 feet to the ground during a training exercise at the Chambers Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant in University Place on June 28.
Pierce County’s current project to expand the treatment plant requires the use of large tower cranes, presenting a unique safety hazard to crane operators and those working around them. The scenario for this exercise focused on rescuing distressed persons from the operating compartment.
“The drill was a rewarding experience for all participants,” said West Pierce Fire and Rescue Chief Jim Sharp. “Opportunities to safely train in unique and real world environments such as this are invaluable.”
Mortenson Construction, the county’s contractor for the expansion project, was the sponsor of the crane rescue exercise.
Crane-related accidents are common in the construction field, with the majority caused by falls, crane collapse, dropping or swinging of loads and overhead power line electrocutions. Four tower cranes and two mobile cranes are currently being used for the expansion project to move rebar and heavy objects. The tallest crane extends 195 feet in the air.
Firefighters who participated in Saturday’s exercise are also members of a region-wide group called the Pierce County Special Operations Team. The team is comprised of trained rescue personnel from West Pierce Fire and Rescue, Gig Harbor Fire and Medic One, Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, and East Pierce Fire and Rescue. The collective team trains quarterly on a variety of special rescue disciplines.
Last weekend’s exercise was the second training the Pierce County Special Operations Team has held at the treatment plant this year. In March, firefighters used a dry well located at the plant to practice rescuing a dummy from a confined space. The group also plans to tour the treatment plant to become more familiarized with specific safety hazards Public Works and Utilities’ employees face on a daily basis.
Workers attend required safety training to help prevent avoidable emergencies, however there are many situations at a treatment plant that could require an emergency response from trained rescue personnel.
“I appreciate the local fire departments’ initiative to conduct joint safety trainings with our staff and contractors and look forward to our continued partnership,” said Carl Every, Pierce County Public Works and Utilities sewer division manager.
Karl Imlig, Public Works and Utilities Sewer Division engineering manager
Callene Abernathy, Public Works and Utilities Sewer Division public information specialist