Communication tower construction and use is expanding at an astounding rate in response to growth in the cellular, energy, data, WiFi, radio, and television industries. The situation of an ill or injured climber is consequently more frequent and on the rise as well. A typical scenario may involve telecommunication workers, wind power service personnel, maintenance crews for satellite antennas and others. This is requiring local fire departments to address their training and equipment needed for these types of rescues and recognize when special teams may be needed to assist in these incidents.
Communication towers offer a true challenge to any fire department. There are many hazards on and around these towers. Comprehensive training includes understanding fall protection, radio frequency hazards, microwave radiation, electrical hazards, anchoring options and limitations, edge protection concerns, climbing requirements and understanding the many types of towers. Beginning in 2014, the National Fire Protection Association Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents (NFPA 1670) was expanded to include tower rescue, the hazards of removing ill or injured people from manmade tower structures
The Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team (WMTRT) participated in training on tower rescue at the Eversource facility in Springfield, preparing them to assist with operations on the growing number of structures in the region where they may required to provide service. The training day began with a classroom session on evaluating the tower before, during and after the rescue. Instructors also reviewed documentation found on the site and workings with co-workers are often overlooked and working with them can offer significant information and assistance. Class topics included safety, grounding, EMF, conductors, insulators, tower access, patient access, and rescue rigging. Working directly with tower owners is paramount to a safe operation.
Increasingly, fire departments will want to recognize the unique rescue needs required for tower rescue and also to be prepared for emergency response to high-angle rescue incidents involving communications towers, radio towers, and other man-made structures. But training on tower hazards, RF safety, tower climbing equipment and techniques, and tower rescue methods is complicated.
The Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team has undergone specialized training and refined a list of specialized equipment that provides safer access when working at heights, to facilitate rescue of workers involved in communication tower construction or maintenance, power grid transmission structures or wind turbines.