For some people, squeezing through a 2-foot cylinder and entering a dark, confined space evokes anxiety and apprehension. An elite team of trained rescuers at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) put those fears aside to rescue a fellow worker.
Confined space training is a component of Emergency Response training at PCAPP. There, responders learn to make confined space rescues through the use of a simulator, a first for chemical demilitarization sites.
“The PCAPP site has several confined spaces,” said Jim Tanner, emergency preparedness planner. “To properly train in those spaces, we would have to monitor for dangerous atmospheric conditions every time we would go into the space. Using the simulator, we can train as much as we want to, at any given time without having to monitor for dangers,” he said.
Tanner and fellow emergency planner Nick Featherstone came up with the idea of building a confined space rescue trainer out of an intermodal shipping and storage container, commonly known as a CONEX. According to Featherstone, the modified CONEX provides a controlled environment in which to conduct training. “Having the simulator increases the safety of confined space rescue training exponentially,” emphasized Featherstone.
“I’ve been all over the world, and the confined space training at PCAPP, is the best I’ve seen, bar none,” said James Jordan Jr., PCAPP training specialist. “It is based on kinesthetic learning.” This is also known as ‘learning by doing.’
The week-long class focuses on proper patient packaging (using different types of backboards and baskets) using ropes, pulleys for mechanical advantages and other hardware that makes a rescue possible. “Rope rescue training can seem very overwhelming to new team members,” Tanner explained. “It’s exciting to see the trainees perform the tasks of rescue and become proficient in confined space rescue.”