A Special Operations Unit workshop, which brought together emergency service workers from different organisations, aimed to develop new and safer ways to extricate patients during vertical rescues.

Patients needing to be rescued from tight spaces, tall buildings and de-railed trains were just some of the challenges facing teams at a recent joint agency Vertical Rescue Workshop, which was conducted by the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Held last month, the SOU simulation – which also featured Critical Care Paramedics from Aeromedical Operations along with fellow rescue instructors from Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) and Police Rescue - aimed to develop new and safer ways to extricate patients from complex, high risk situations.

These situations included moving patients down through buildings, across a street, inside a lift shaft and up through an over-turned train carriage in low light conditions. The teams worked extremely well as they brought different experiences together to coordinate the safe access, treatment and movement of patients through these environments.

This collaboration between the services was a highlight for all involved, with rescue instructor A/Training Officer Andrew Crew discussing the benefits of this training.

“It was invaluable to learn more about how other services tackle the same vertical rescue situation with some different equipment to us,” he said.

“Over the last two days I’ve learnt a lot from everyone’s experiences.”

While technical ability was put to the test, so were other key skills required on these jobs. Team communication, regular Dynamic Risk Assessments and logistics played an important role in ensuring teams functioned safely and effectively, despite many of the individuals not having worked with each other previously.

The FRNSW Emergency Services Academy at Orchard Hills played host to the training and provided a range of environments to test the teams in realistic conditions. This included the use of the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) area, multi-storey training building and streetscape to practise different techniques for anchoring, artificial high directional frames and stretcher setups.

Bill Proctor, from Safety Access and Rescue, led the workshop and explained one of the key outcomes from the training.

“We’re trying to give rescue officers the ability to look at the solution to a vertical rescue problem first, then work backwards to build what’s required with the tools they have,” he said.

“I’ve been really impressed with some of the innovative solutions the teams have developed.”

Over the past three years NSW Ambulance has invested in updated vertical rescue equipment including new high directional frames, safety devices and hardware that has increased the safety for patients and staff during these operations.

“This investment, along with the program to deliver new state-of-the-art rescue trucks and a strong response to the recent Rescue recruitment campaign, reflects an exciting time in the unit,” Associate Director Counter Terrorism & Emergency Management, Richard Cohen said.