GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – When the unthinkable happens, a team of first responders will be there.
There are hours of training that lead up to their response, including simulations set up to sharpen their skills when a trench collapses and traps a victim underground.
South Carolina Task Force 6 and Greenville County’s Emergency Response Team train for unexpected disasters and sometimes they’re in the trenches.
“You never know when something bad is going to happen,” said Jessica Stumpf, Director of Greenville County Emergency Management. “They are in the hole, they are trying to stabilize the trench in order to rescue or recover someone who may be trapped down there.”
Stumpf said the task force is made up of crews from local fire departments and emergency response teams. And when the walls cave in, they get right to work.
“They have to train together. You don’t want to show up on a scene necessarily and not know who you are working with. You want to show up and have already built those relationships beforehand,” said Stumpf.
Communication, teamwork, and hours of training go into providing a unified response.
“We were given a scenario where someone was trapped under the dirt so we have to safe the edge of the trench prior to making entry,” said Brad Kuykendall, South Carolina Task Force 6 leader.
Kuykendall knows exactly what it’s like to be in the trenches after responding to a similar incident years ago in the Upstate.
“Training definitely paid off,” Kuykendall said.
He explained to 7NEWS that there is more to the job than just jumping in. Before the rescue or recovery efforts begin, task force leaders said a number of boxes must be checked off to keep everyone safe.
“We have to get confined space permits, we have to monitor the air and make sure it’s safe for us and our personnel to enter, and then we have to shore the trench up,” said Kuykendall.
Then it’s go time.
Things like Paratech walers and struts are locked and nailed into place.
“They will hold the walls of the trench open so there is no further collapse on our personnel or the victim we are trying to rescue,” said Kuykendall.
Once the struts are set and the walls are secure, the next step for crews is to go down and start digging.
“You would see rescuers using a ladder to enter into the trench and then you would see us digging from there,” said Kuykendall. “It’s a lot of hard work that does into that portion.”
Task force leaders said one cubic yard of dirt can weigh anywhere between 75-100 lbs. If you are trapped underneath, crews are not only working on the safety aspect of their recovery operation but also racing against the clock.
“These are all things that are threats to the county that we have to prepare for no matter how infrequently or frequently that they happen,” said Stumpf.
It’s a process task force members said can take hours, but it’s something they proudly do.
“The people that are out here today are dedicated and they’re out here to learn and get better,” said Kuykendall. “We are there to help people. We signed up for that job to help people. That’s just part of the job really.”