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The City of Portland, Oregon

Fire & Rescue

Always Ready, Always There

Phone: 503-823-3700

Fax: 503-823-3710

55 SW Ash Street, Portland, OR 97204

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Being in the Trenches: Rescue Training


On October 28th, 29th, and 30th, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) firefighters will be working with the Portland Water Bureau and the Portland Maintenance Bureau to practice the skills that will save workers in the event of a trench collapse. Firefighters will be practicing their skills and working with their specialized equipment in an actual trench. They will be working on a scenario involving a trapped worker at the bottom of the trench. Two scenarios will be run each day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.


The PF&R Trench Rescue Team is specially training to respond to trapped persons in open excavations defined as trenches.  An excavation that is deeper than it is wide and narrower than it is long is defined as a trench.  Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require trenches to be secure before workers enter them for any reason.  OSHA and the National Fire Protection Association have established stringent safety procedures, operational requirements, and rescuer qualification standards related to trenching operations. 



The team uses special rescue equipment including panels made from extremely strong plywood and various adapters and hardware to assemble and install shoring that protects the rescuers while they excavate hundreds or even thousands of pounds of dirt to reach trapped victims.  Most of the digging is accomplished with hand trowels and small shovels to prevent injuring the patient as they are dug out.  The trench has to be made safe for entry before the rescue operation can begin.

Removing one trapped patient can take as long as several hours due to the time it takes to build the shoring around them and then dig them out. Engine 1, Truck 1, and Squad 1 (Heavy Rescue 1) will respond along with the Trench Van which is outfitted with all equipment.  All apparatus can be deployed across the Portland area to expedite rescue response.


Many of the special rescue tools used for trench rescue can also be used by other disciplines such as confined space rescue, structural collapse, heavy rescue, and even the rope equipment can be utilized by the high angle rope rescue team.   

October 28, 2009


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October 28, 2009 at 3:37 PM

Here's a link to the KATU coverage of your trench rescue drill.

Your new blog is great.


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