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|Paynesville Press - March 13, 2002|
Firefighters stage drill with new rescue sled
"Fantastic." That's how well a new rescue sled worked in a joint drill last week with the Paynesville Fire Department and the Koronis Hills Snowmobile Club, who donated the sled, according to Jeff Ruprecht, who is the training officer for the fire department.|
The snowmobile club donated the new sled, which cost about $2,000, to the fire department last summer. Then the department found that their existing snowmobile was in terrible condition and needed to be replaced, too. The club covered half the cost of a new snowmobile for the department, another $2,500.
"We might not use it but once a year. We have a lot of equipment that we use infrequently," said Ruprecht. "It's extremely valuable that one time."
Previously, the fire department had a backboard that could be attached to a sled, but the sled had no suspension. Or firefighters would have to walk over uneven ground carrying a victim on a backboard, also not the smoothest of rides.
The new rescue sled has suspension, which is important for the comfort of the victim and to avoid worsening any injuries. In many accidents, for example, the victims are treated for possible neck injuries, said Ruprecht, which need to be kept as stable as possible.
"The nicer the equipment the easier it is on the patient, the easier it is on us, and the faster we can get them out," he explained. A fast rescue is important to avoid hypothermia.
Ruprecht said the department is very grateful for the new equipment from the snowmobile club. The fire department has already used the sled in a live rescue after a snowmobile accident.
The drill had been planned for months but was kept being postponed due to lack of snow.
Around 15 firefighters and eight club members participated in the drill on Tuesday, March 5, which featured three mock victims from the club. Ruprecht tried to make the drill as challenging as possible.
One factor was darkness, which poses a special problem to snowmobile rescues, said Ruprecht, because giving directions to road-based rescuers is difficult while riding trails. "In the middle of the night, you don't have a clue where you're at," he explained of the snowmobiler's predicament. "It's dark. There are no landmarks, and they call it in on a cell phone."
Many snowmobilers are from out of town and may not be familiar with the area. Vague directions pose a challenge to firefighters needing to locate the accident site and find the nearest road access.
The drill last week was in the woods a couple miles east of town. Ruprecht was pleased with how the firefighters targeted the site, using only general clues to the location.
The rescue sled and snowmobile only haul six rescue personnel at a time, leaving many of the firefighters on the road with the ambulance to help once the victims have been moved to the road.
With three victims, the rescue team had to decide which patient was most critical, prioritize their trips back to the road base with the rescue sled, and take the patients in order of their injuries.
In a best-case scenario, snowmobilers in the victim's party would help the firefighters by coming to the road so they know where to stop and then helping to carry rescue personnel and equipment to the accident site.
Firefighters learn from every drill, every run they make, according to Ruprecht. From this drill, they plan on improving the sleds' suspension and adding another light to the back of the sled for better visibility.
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