Men overboard, severe abdominal cramps and a fall from a scaffold are some of the real-life emergencies Olmsted’s volunteer first responder team has assisted with since it stood up in 2010, according to casting yard manager and original team member Bob Wheeler.
The Olmsted Locks and Dam construction project is on the Ohio River between Illinois and Kentucky about 17 miles upstream from its confluence with the Mississippi. Southern Illinois is an area of very small towns sparsely scattered across lightly populated expanses of soybean and corn fields. The numbers of hospitals and health care providers reflect this fact.
“We formed the first response team after one of our craft folk was injured during a concrete placement,” Wheeler explains. “The emergency responders in the surrounding counties were unprepared for a response to our site and since we’re in such a remote location the ambulance took nearly an hour to arrive.”
General superintendent Dave Phillips assisted in getting the ball rolling.
“I held a weekly meeting for the core group and we assigned responsibilities to members,” Phillips recalls. “As a team, we reviewed and completed our charter, set up and got approval to have a first-aid conex and an on-site ambulance. We also planned and held rescue drills and held a review meeting after each one for lessons learned. As a team we recruited others and held group meetings discussing the charter and defining the responsibilities of each member.”
The Corps of Engineers’ resident engineer notes that with a project of this size and magnitude - with marine and casting yard activities – there’s a high level of exposure to site personnel.
“Having the first responders group on site gives our workers a higher level of protection,” says Brad Bradley. “This is the first job I’ve been on that has such a developed emergency-response capacity and I’ve been at very, very remote sites.”
Wheeler says they started by finding a few volunteers with first-response experience to help write procedure to follow in case of an incident. Then the few looked for others willing to participate and the team was formed with six or seven members. As of June 2013, 55 volunteers from laborers to crafts to office staff comprise the Olmsted first-response team – and the number is likely to increase during the low-water season when the size of the work force peaks to handle shell-placing activities.
“There are not qualifications necessary to be on the team other than the desire to help,” Wheeler says. “We train each member in first aid, CPR and use of a defibrillator. Not everyone is able to assist the injured but many are able to help by directing traffic, escorting the ambulance and crowd control.”
The Washington Group-Alberici joint venture’s full-time emergency medical technician says many of Olmsted’s first responders already have related training and experience.
“The team includes firefighters or those who were, some who do or did SAR (search and rescue) and some state-licensed first responders in their own communities,” explains Melissa Crisman. In addition to the classroom training she organizes, Crisman says, the volunteers participate in man-overboard drills once a month and other drills twice a year that involve responding to a variety of job-related scenarios.
“Part of the training is a constant familiarization with their emergency equipment,” Crisman says. The equipment is stored in a conex trailer in the casting yard and it includes stretchers, Stokes and aerial retrieval baskets, specialized rigging, backboards, gloves, flashlights and a first-aid kit. The equipment has been compiled with the purpose of assisting the injured until professionals arrive.
“The minute ‘clear channel one’ happens (the channel used for emergencies on their two-way radios) and the incident location is communicated, a forklift driver goes to the conex and brings it to the incident site or as close as possible,” Crisman says. She also points out that a helicopter landing zone has been prepared and setting up the ground guidance lights are part of the team’s training.
The emergency response vehicle and the crash dummy used for training were rustled up by the Corps of Engineers’ resident government property administrator through GSAXcess. Dave Hawley said the cost to the project was transportation of the items to the site and minor maintenance to ensure they are safe to operate.
The full-time site safety and health officer says the combination of the members’ emergency response backgrounds and their excellent reaction times to incidents are some of the team’s biggest contributions to the project’s safety program.
“We’re remote and they can provide almost instant care to an individual,” says Douglas Callor.
The original Olmsted core first responders team members are: Bob Wheeler, casting manager; Bobby Miller, carpenter general foreman; Melissa Crisman, site EMT; Glen Bragg, ironworker superintendent; Rich Hamilton, batch plant superintendent; and, Dave Phillips, casting yard general superintendent.