Thursday, November 29, 2007

Loads of emergency respondin'

This week has been a huge one for the emergency responders here at Pole. Tuesday we had our first large drill of the season. One patient was simulated having experience electrical shock, which also set off a (false) carbon monoxide alarm in the IceCube Lab. The fire brigade (Team 2, of which I'm the lead) had an extremely rapid response time. It was pretty chilly on the sleds being towed by snow mobiles, but we pretty much all took necessary precautions to protect our gear from the frigid temperatures. We mustered well, and got the building search done quickly, despite some communications problems. The ICL is encased in a copper mesh cage to prevent radio transmission in and out of the building, due to sensitive equipment that they have inside. We're working on some redundant comms plans to address this issue at ICL and in other radio-unfriendly facilities. There was a second patient (a fall victim) out at the IceCube drilling camp, but Team 2 was not required to assist with that scene.

Wednesday night Team 2 had our own debriefing about how the drill went. It was good to hear everybody's spin on how things transpired. We had another false fire alarm here in the Elevated Station. Somebody's nebulizer set off the alarm in their dorm room, and we had to scramble to address the issue. There are stainless steel fire doors that swing shut out in the hall, and as I was coming from the far end of the station I glimpsed this grey color further down and thought for a bit that it was a wall of smoke pouring out of the far end of the station. Luckily, it wasn't, but that sure got my attention. Responding inside the station is pretty difficult compared to remote buildings outside. For lack of a better comparison, I'd liken it to urban warfare versus battle out in the open field. The quarters are cramped, there is potential for lots of people to get cut off by fire very quickly, and communications are made extremely difficult. It was a good learning experience, and again was thankfully just a false alarm.

Thursday night we had a big meeting of the emergency responder team leads. There was a lot of good discussion, and we will hopefully be able to make some adjustments to how things are organized that will really help us out for the next drill or (hopefully not) real emergency. I definitely feel like of the team leads that Team 2 gets the most attention or scrutiny. I guess it's appropriate due to the more complex nature of our gear, and the higher danger we encounter by entering hazardous atmospheres and attacking combustion events. The meeting was a good 1.5 hours well spent.

So, I mentioned trouble on the road out to the SPRESSO vault on Tuesday. Well, what it was was a leak in our cooling system, which left a trail of glycol along our path until it started billowing smoke and we knew something was wrong.

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