By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — It was training day.
Londonderry firefighters spent a morning last week updating confinement training skills during a mock rescue on Gilcreast Road near a Pennichuck Water pump station.
The drill brought out teams of workers to take on all aspects of the drill, made to be as real and accurate as possible in case it was a real emergency.
The scenario was set. Fire officials were called to the pumping station to rescue a worker who was within the underground pumping station and was feeling faint.
Being in such a confined area required special firefighter rescue measures.
“The (mock) worker entered the pumping station, made the 911 call after feeling lightheaded and dizzy,” said Battalion Chief Jim Roger, also in charge of training at the Londonderry Fire Department.
Roger said if this were an actual emergency, his staff would respond and put their confinement training talents into action.
That includes using a $44,976 grant to upgrade rescue equipment and other security measures for the town’s infrastructure including the purchase of gas detection units to help firefighters monitor potentially dangerous situations like this drill offered.
Londonderry applied for the grant last year and was one of only seven New Hampshire communities to receive grant funding from 40 applications.
This particular drill required workers to make sure air quality was also not a danger to the “worker” in the pumping station.
“Atmosphere is the problem,” Roger said at the drill site.
His crew was outfitted with the proper gear and safety masks, and were then lowered into the underground area to help the patient, played by a 200-pound life-like mannequin.
Firefighters were lowered into the pumping station to assess the situation and then rescue the patient.
The rescue also included monitoring the air quality to see what sort of atmospheric conditions were present, Roger said.
Hosting confined space training is important to Londonderry as it has a lot of large industrial areas where potential dangers could happen.
“There are a lot of businesses in North Londonderry loaded with confinement spaces,” he said.
Londonderry firefighters do this type of training twice a year, along with other types of drills and rescue work.
Roger said the scenarios change from time to time, and he always likes to find some new situation that will challenge firefighters and their skills.
“We’re an insurance policy in case something happens,” he said.
Roger said all four battalions at the department would take part in similar confined space training.
He said the grant funding helped the community a lot as this type of technology can be costly.
“There is no way we could have afforded this, and this type of exercise does a lot of training,” he said. “It’s a good bang for our buck.”
Knowing what to do in all types of situations makes the department more aware and better trained, Roger said.
“There’s a real sense of realism to this,” he said. “We then monitor the learning points and see little things we can improve upon. It all equals time. We don’t know when we’re going to be called.”