Thailand rescue provides valuable learning opportunities for world's first responders

July 11, 2018 - 4:21 am

Among the millions of eyes glued to the dramatic scene unfolding as international dive teams rescued a youth soccer team from flooded caves in Thailand was a group of firefighters in the Kansas City area.

Many lessons will be learned by the people who form fire department technical rescue teams.

Firefighters spend countless hours preparing for dangerous rescue scenarios, some of which include high angles, swift water and confined spaces. Each incident provides learning opportunities, said Battalion Chief Larry Young with the Kansas City Fire Department. 

"Unfortunately in fire service we have several line-of-duty deaths per year nationwide, and we always try to look at those and figure out what went wrong, so that we can either train our personnel about what not to do, or develop some technique that will avoid us getting in that situation," Young said.

Young's first concern on seeing the developing situation in Thailand was the lack of oxygen for the boys and their coach. 

Young says the first concern they had, when they first starting seeing reports about the cave rescue, was the lack of available oxygen the boys and their coach were dealing with.

The key in many complex rescue situations is to develop a plan B or plan C, so there will be alternatives when things go wrong.

"We have to consider not only the civilians and their safety, and getting them out safely, but we have to make sure that we don't make more of a problem with injuring one of our rescuers, or making the situation worse," Young said.

The KCFD's technical rescue team had to deal with moving water and confined spaces when they rescued people from Coach's Sports Bar (pictured below) during severe flooding in August of last year. They made at least 160 water rescues that day.

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