Evolution of A Rescue: How Social Media Had A Hand In Rescuing A Three Year Old In Panama

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I wanted to share this story with all of you because it gave me a lift today when I needed it. For the sake of being candid there are definitely days when I tell myself that my time in the fire service is done and I can no longer resist the pull of spending the rest of my days in the Idaho wilderness hunting, fishing and writing. If you asked my wife she would certainly say she's tired of hearing me talk about it. Part of that struggle is social media, anyone who is an admin on a fire service page knows that it can sometimes be a bear. Most of us know that social media can either be one of the greatest tools for sharing knowledge and connecting with like minded people or it can be completely destructive by unproductive smart-ass comments and the inevitable Monday Morning Quarterbacking. You eventually have to resolve to fight the good fight at all costs or bow out of the scene. But every so often something happens that gives you the upper hand in that fight, something that shows the real power and pure awesomeness that social media can dish out. This story to me is one of those purely awesome moments that all those fighting the good fight deserve credit for. What I'm going to do is map out the evolution of a Facebook post that spanned three countries, two continents and eventually resulted in a rescue. It started when I saw a picture Andrew Brassard shared from the CF Tactics page of a prop being set up at the Orlando Fire Conference Heavy Rescue Class. The prop was that of a child with their head caught in a rail fence.

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I thought this looked like a great drill to do the next day when I was back on tour and I knew that I had some rail fencing at the shop that would be perfect. So the next day on tour I set the drill up without letting the two firefighters I was working with know and told them to grab their hand tools and they were getting dispatched to a entrapment and they could only use the tools they had (set of irons and a NY Hook) and what they carried in their bunkers. They got to the scene, saw the child trapped and immediately set up a windlass (a simple mechanical advantage, essentially the same as making a tourniquet), with webbing from their bunkers and a Halligan bar. The result was they had the child out in no time in a low impact, non-disruptive fashion that wouldn't alarm the child like a pair of spreaders or any other mechanized tool might. So, I snapped a photo posted it to the Brothers In Battle Facebook page. Overall, people seemed to like it and some started asking for a video. So with our basic knowledge of smartphones we made a quick video...and that's when the post blew up. Over the next couple of days between the Brothers In Battle page and the Heavy Rescue page it was shared over 3,000 times and had a reach of over 500,000 people. That's a lot for some Idaho rednecks who don't know what their doing and aren't making a video of blowing something up.

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This is where Lt. Daniel Archambault from St. 47 Heavy Rescue, Team A2 of the Montreal FD in Quebec steps in. He sees the video and then goes on vacation to Panama. In Panama there is the Penonome FD who the Lt. has become close with from previous trips and on this trip he spent some time training with one of the crews. And what's one of the things they train on? Yep, child with their head stuck. Now the Penonome firefighters didn't have any webbing and hadn't previously used it so the Lt. graciously gave them some and they had a great night of training that wrapped up around 22:00. It was at 10:00 am the next morning that the Lt. received the pictures that you see below of a three year old girl who got her head caught in a security door. The crew had received the exact call they had trained on and brilliantly applied that which had been taught to them literally hours before by the Lt. who was willing to train with firefighters from another country on his vacation. It was a successful rescue on all accounts.

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A simple technique that started with seeing a pic from Florida, a video made in Idaho, viewed by a Lt. in Montreal, Quebec taught to some firefighters in Penonome, Panama resulted in the rescue of a three year old girl. The moral of the story is one we all know...Social media, paired with motivated Brothers and Sisters fighting to build each other up rather than criticize and simply point out faults can be a powerful thing. The knowledge shared doesn't belong to any of us, but it is our responsibility to pass it on.

Thank You Lt. Archambault for sharing this story with me! And thanks to all the Brothers and Sisters pushing the envelope of the positive impact social media can have on the fire service. - B. Olson