first responders

KN, p. 221 “The Stokes Basket Rescue Method”

 

A Stokes basket is a metal wire (or plastic) litter used by First Responders in difficult terrain.

 

Originally designed by Charles Francis Stokes, a Navy Surgeon General in the early 20th century, these baskets have been updated to keep pace with our changing requirements. Once used primarily in mountainous areas with transport occurring on the backs of donkeys and horses, the appearance of helicopters on the historical scene expanded the ways in which rescues could be conducted.


After the person’s immediate first aid needs are tended to, he/she is fastened into the litter, and then the litter can be moved. In my own case, I had a ski accident that included a deeply lacerated arm. I was dripping blood onto the snow, but since I didn’t ordinarily need poles to ski, I thought I could ski down the rest of the mountain to the First Aid Station on my own, holding the injured arm in front of me.


Wiser heads than mine prevailed. The mountain rescue team wrapped my arm, lowered me into a Stokes basket, and strapped me in. I was towed about a half mile across a mogul field by a pair of guys from the Ski Patrol. It was a bumpy ride over that mogul field, but there was no other way to get me down to the waiting ambulance.


I was towed behind skis, but snowmobiles, horses, and ATVs have all been employed to
get the injured through the woods or hill country.

 

StokesSuspendedWith specially attached ropes and in limited situations, people can be also be lifted to safety by helicopter. Natural disasters sometimes cut people off from ground transportation, so people have been airlifted out of wildfires or flooded areas without the helicopter ever having to set down. Somebody on the ground helps the injured person get into the basket, attaches it to the pulley system, and then the helicopter takes them to safety. The photo shows the same Stokes basket (with demo dummy) and the single rope leading to the tie-down spot.

 

StokesBasketBottomDSC_0088

The view of the underside of the six-foot Stokes basket reveals the mesh insert that keeps the patient’s limbs from falling through the open steel frame. In addition, the dark blue insert provides some comfort and support to the upper body.

 

Stokes baskets are also used to rescue victims from confined spaces, like caves or collapsed buildings. I recently discovered that some baskets used in surface water rescue have floats attached. If used in mountain rescue, the litters might come with a lid/cover to either protect the person from falling rocks or keep the patient from falling out, should it tip.


Design improvements have included using multiple attachment points, separate hold-down cables, and powered extension hoists. The multiple attachment points can prevent the basket from spinning while being transported by helicopter. Powered hoists can be valuable during steep terrain rescues and/or if there is not enough manpower onsite to do the heavy lifting. The U.S. Navy has used the Stokes basket to transport patients through narrow corridors and doorways.

 

StokesBearClawStokesBrakeBarRackDSC_0111

 

 

 

The close-up shot of the ‘bear claw’ shows the holes at the bottom through which the carabiners and ropes are attached; the other ends secured at the Stokes basket. The ropes attached to the vehicle that supplies the lifting power are secured at the top of the ‘bear claw.’

On the right: the rope is wound through the brake bar rack to more securely anchor the rope to the vehicle. Less slippage occurs with its use.

 

Ropes come in different strengths for different needs, so the ropes are different colors to keep it simple for the rescuers. Because of the incredible demands placed on the ropes (weight, tension, water, scorching heat, and freezing cold) the ropes need to be tested for soundness on a regular basis. Too much weight at any given time can compromise the integrity of the rope, but even with normal wear and tear, they are replaced every few years.

 

Life expectancy of the ropes seen in the photos is about seven years. Somebody’s life depends on that rope not snapping, but even at a cost of about $15.00 per foot, fire departments try to budget for replacement at about the five year point.

 

The type of rescue involving a Stokes basket/lifting with ropes is a low frequency, but high risk operation.

 

On land, firefighters are frequently called upon to handle rescues of this type. At sea, this job falls to the Coast Guard. They have the trucks/helicopters, equipment, and training to ensure the happy ending to an otherwise awful tragedy.

 

 

Photo credits:

Taken by Patti Phillips during a Writers’ Police Academy demonstration in Wisconsin.

 

 

 

KN, p. 132 “Fan Favorites – 2014”

 

I’ve said it before and it’s still true: Kerrian’s Notebook followers are a great bunch. A few of the readers mentioned that some of the posts in 2014 were ‘ripped from the headlines.’ Truth is often stranger than fiction, so while Kerrian is a fictional character, the posts are based in solid fact. As I say in my upcoming novel, “Murder is messy,” and it’s sometimes just plain weird. But, even a Homicide Detective cooks, goes on an occasional trip, and works with other law enforcement officers, so the fan faves were an interesting mix.

 

Below is the list of the most frequently read new posts on Kerrian’s Notebook in 2014.

Click on each title to take you to that page.  🙂

 

10.  “How many bodies at the yard sale?” (p.122) – Based on a visit to the 2014 Writers’ Police Academy.

 

 

9.  “Death by Elevator” (p.105) – Based on my real-life experience in April, 2014.

 

8.  “50 More Ways to Die an Unnatural Death” (p.111) – The #1 vote getter was so popular that I wrote another list and it made the top 10 as well.  🙂

 

7.  “Cemetery at the Golf Course” (p.116) –  Yup, this one is true.

 

 

6.  “Officer needs assistance!” (p.117) Photos taken at the re-enactment of a high-risk stop.

 

5.  “75 Second Mookies” (p.126) – Created, taste tested and eaten by us.  🙂

 

4.  “Chocolaty Chocolate Banana Muffins” (p.96) – Created, taste tested and eaten by us  🙂

 

 

3.  “What does a firefighter wear?” (p.119) Info about uniforms and videos of heat resistance testing. Photos taken during the 2014 Writers’ Police Academy.

 

 

 

 

2.  “What does a sheriff do?” (p.115) tells the difference between a Sheriff and a Police Chief, as explained to me by an active duty Chief.

 

…and the most frequently read new post on www.kerriansnotebook.com in 2014 was:

 

1. “100 Ways to Die an Unnatural Death” (p.100) Written in honor of the 100th Kerrian’s Notebook post.  There were LOTS of writers that checked out the two unnatural death lists, used some of the ideas in their own writing and even contributed suggestions. Readers sent me some wickedly funny emails and some of those ideas are in #8!

 

Thanks to all of you, readership almost doubled in 2014. It was a phenomenal year!

 

Here’s to a great 2015, with fewer real-life homicides, more crimes solved and always, more amazing mysteries/suspense/thrillers to read.

 

 

*Photos by Patti Phillips

KN, p. 118 “How do you become a firefighter?”

 

I have several pals around the country who are firefighters. Some put out wildfires, some work in rural areas, others in big cities. A couple of them helped out during and after September 11th. Firefighters have a dangerous job and a whole lot of guts. No doubt about it. They save lives, they help people, they serve the community in countless ways. Yet, many civilians assume that the job is just about putting out the flames. In most towns, there is much more to it. Their duties can include:

 

  • responding to requests for help
  • putting out fires
  • assisting at highway accidents
  • rescuing people during floods or other natural disasters
  • rendering safe any bombs
  • rescuing trapped people and animals

 

And, after they do all that, firefighters are usually responsible for the cleanup and checking the incident site afterward.

 

One of the first ways children meet firefighters is in school. Each year in October (National Fire Prevention Month in the USA) firefighters educate the community by visiting schools and public venues, demonstrating how to avoid getting hurt during a fire. “Stop, Drop & Roll” is taught everywhere, so that children will know what to do if they smell smoke in their own homes. In communities where wildfires are an unfortunate fact of life, wildfire preparedness is taught, with a focus on how to protect the house year-round and what to do when it’s time to evacuate.

 

Sound like a career you’d like to have? Read on to discover the job requirements. It’s a competitive field and not for everyone, but it is highly rewarding for the guys and gals who qualify.

 

You must be 18 and have a High School diploma. Beyond that?

 

Education

  • Because of the changing demands on firefighters, many fire departments now ask that applicants complete some kind of coursework beyond high school.
  • Some departments (generally in larger cities) even require a full bachelor or associate’s degree in fire science or fire engineering.

 

Most potential firefighters will then have to undergo five areas of testing in order to determine readiness for training:

 

Testing for Firefighter Qualification:

 

Written Exam – 150 to 200 multiple choice questions including reading comprehension, math, judgment, listening comprehension, oral & written communication, etc.

 

Physical Agility – the various parts of this test simulate situations a firefighter would encounter on the job and depending on the town/city, all must be completed in under ten minutes (in some cases as little as seven minutes)

  • Hose drag – in general, 200 feet of hose line is dragged at least 75 feet while walking or running upright, and then perhaps dragged an additional distance after dropping to one knee
  • Stair Climb – a set number of stairs is climbed while wearing or carrying equipment
  • Equipment Carry – some versions of the test require hauling  equipment through a second story window via rope; others require carrying equipment for 75 feet while walking on the ground.
  • Ladder Raise – those tall ladders have extensions that must be managed and adjusted while several feet off the ground.
  • Forcible Entry – using a sledgehammer, the applicant has to hit and move a device a certain distance in order to demonstrate an ability to use force when smashing through a wall, etc.
  • Search – the applicant has to crawl through a tunnel maze with right angles and limited visibility – about 3’x4’ in some spots, smaller in others
  • Rescue – a full-sized dummy (about 165 pounds) must be dragged 75 feet in one direction and then 75 feet back.
  • Ceiling Breach – tools are used to poke and pull at a hole in a ceiling – sometimes including a sixty pound door.

 

This video from Cuyahoga Community College demonstrates some of the challenges to be met:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tvwp2r2BzdE&feature=youtu.be

 

If the applicant fails the physical part of the test, he/she is typically allowed to sign up for a later attempt, usually after several months.

 

Other sections of the test battery include:

 

Medical Exam – thorough checkup, plus drug testing

 

Psychological Exam – are you psychologically suited for the job – are you afraid of dark, tight spaces? Do you work well in teams? Can you take orders? Why do you want to work in such a dangerous field?

 

Oral Interview (pass/fail section of testing)

Possible questions might include: Why do you want to be a firefighter? What are your strengths/weaknesses? What is the job?  Are you qualified? Why should we hire you?

 

 

After passing all five areas, the applicant will be permitted to apply to a fire academy and/or fire department for the training program.

 

Some towns are set up to allow for on-the-job training after the testing is complete. The applicants become candidates at the firehouse and complete their training with the firefighters they will be working with, but most towns require attendance at a formal program before this step.

 

 

Training Program

  • A several weeks/months long training program must be completed at a fire department or academy.
  • Recruits learn about hazardous materials control
  • Recruits learn emergency medical procedures, including CPR.
  • Local building codes are taught
  • Firefighting techniques are practiced, including handling axes, ladders, chainsaws, fire hoses and fire extinguishers.

       Additional information at www.fireprep.com

 

Think you’d like to know more? Call for an appointment at your local firehouse to drop in and introduce yourself. Chances are, if the guys have the time, they’ll chew your ear off with stories of calls they’ve gone out on. The job is not like what you see on “Chicago Fire.” Fun show, but not realistic. Ask a pro.

 

 

*Photos by Patti Phillips

 

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