Confined Space Rescue – Case Study – Part 1

Editors Note: Confined space rescue is generally placed in the technical rescue discipline, however anybody that instructs or has been on confined space incidents knows that hazardous materials are involved, perhaps, more times than not.  This is Part 1 of a multipart series of training points learned from an actual incident.  Each training point aims to improve your response to low frequency/high risk incidents.

Confined space rescue is generally placed in the technical rescue discipline, however anybody that instructs or has been on confined space incidents knows that hazardous materials are involved, perhaps, more times than not.  This was true for the above incident we had in Scottsdale AZ on August 25, 2014.  A worker entered a 3×3 entrance to an approximately 6×6 sump area to retrieve a part number off of a pump when he became overcome by high levels of hydrogen sulfide.  Another worker (who happened to be his father) noticed him to be in trouble and entered the space and assisted his son out of the well but was then overcome himself and in so many of these situations, a third worker saw the father in trouble and entered to try and help and was overcome and fell on top of the father.  There was enough sewage water in the sump area to cover almost both bodies.  First crew onscene could not get too much information from the son because we was very altered and was immediately rushed to the hospital, but we were fairly certain there were two victims down and the Captain declared this an active rescue.

In the following parts I will give an on-scene review of the challenges faced in this rescue.  My intent is to help others learn from this tragic incident and some of the unique problems the team faced including challenges of decon, metering, survivability assessment, PPE, media relations, and technical rescue equipment used on the incident.

Part 2

About The Author

Jeff Zientek is a 28-year veteran Fire Captain with the Phoenix Fire Department. He is the responding Safety Officer and responds to all hazardous materials, technical rescue incidents and all greater alarm fires, not only in Phoenix, but also the surrounding 27 other fire departments in the Phoenix automatic aid system, covering approximately 2000 square miles. Jeff is a trained Technical Rescue Technician, Hazardous Materials Technician, and helicopter Rescue Crew Chief and when not responding and working special operations incidents his responsibilities include; evaluation, purchasing and inventory of all the hazardous materials equipment used by the 6 Phoenix Hazmat Teams, assisting with continued education classes for the hazmat technicians in Phoenix and surrounding agencies, managing the helicopter rescue program by continued training of rescue Crew Chiefs, ground crews and coordination with the Phoenix Police Department rescue pilots. Jeff has been a member of Arizona Task Force 1 (AZTF-1) since 1995 and is currently responsible for maintaining the hazardous materials cache and equipment, along with training and continuing education of current hazmat members. In his time with FEMA he has been on deployments to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics, 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City, and the devastating hurricanes of 2005 in southern U.S. (Katrina/Rita). Jeff is also the author of the book “Hazmat Response: A Field Operations Guide” which gives 1st responders and Hazmat Technicians critical information for working a hazardous materials incident. Jeff is married, he and his wife Robin have 4 children and when not working, likes to explore Arizona on his road or mountain bike, trail run the numerous urban trails or hike the canyons throughout Arizona. You may also find him attending rock & roll concerts with his wife!

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