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☷ Minot North Dakota - That s  a dangerous situation 30 April 2022

☷ Minot North Dakota - That s a dangerous situation 30 April 2022

Minot , state North Dakota
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   Firefighters deal with a number of incidents they describe as high - risk , low - frequency events . Trench rescue is one of them .
   In early April , firefighters gathered at the Minot Fire Department’s training rounds to practice trench rescue . It marked the first official usage of the department’s new concrete trench training site .
   “One of the challenges we’ve had with trench rescue training in previous years is that we’d have to bring someone with a backhoe in to dig a hole for us , ” Battalion Chief Glen Hardy said . “Having an open trench presents all kinds of potential problems for us . ”
   The longer the edges of an open trench are exposed to air , the more the dirt on the edges dries out and becomes susceptible to collapsing . Plus , Hardy said , the ever - changing schedule of the Fire Department means a trench could sit open for days before all crews have a chance to complete training .
   “Some of the battalions might not get to the training for four or five days . Just because we have training scheduled doesn’t mean we can stop answering calls , ” he said . “So an open trench might sit there for days in the sun , or we might get a heavy rain . All of that presents potential problems for training . ”
   The new concrete trench training site eliminates those concerns . Now , firefighters can train under safe conditions , without worrying about experiencing an actual trench collapse during training .
   “This allows us to have a clean , stable area to practice our trench rescue training , ” Hardy said . “It’s safe for us so we can focus on our training . ”
   Trench collapse rescue is just one of several high - risk , low - frequency calls the department could respond to at any time . They don’t happen often , but when those calls come in , the responding firefighters must have proper training .
   “We try to conduct this training at least once a year , even if it’s something we rarely use , ” Hardy said . “When that type of call comes in , we know we’ve trained for it . ”
   On this April day , some 20 or so firefighters gathered around the concrete training site to discuss how to approach a potential collapse , then practiced using a system of wooden panels and pneumatic struts to shore up the walls of the trench .
   “When commercial companies dig for water breaks or other underground work , they’re always supposed to use trench boxes to brace the walls against collapsing , ” Hardy said . “But if it’s a private person digging , or if a company doesn’t follow the rules , you can have a trench cave - in , and that’s a dangerous situation . ”
   In a real trench collapse emergency , there would be only a few firefighters near the trench and crews would try to keep any equipment at least 300 feet from the trench to avoid ground vibrations making the situation worse .
   “The fewer people around the trench the better , ” Hardy said . “Even seemingly small vibrations can make the situation worse , so we have to be aware of that while we’re working to shore up the trench and rescue any potential victims . ”
   They always have to think about their own safety , too .
   “I don’t think most people think about how much dirt can weigh . It’s extremely heavy , ” Hardy said . “A collapsing trench wall can break your legs very easily if you’re down in the trench . Or worse . If you get caught in a trench collapse , you might be lucky if you only break a leg because you can get buried very quickly . These are dangerous situations . ”
   

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