Firefighters involved in Calgary Tower rescue go through extensive training for such scenarios

Calgary Fire Department has trained teams prepared to respond to high-angle rescues since 1983, a first in North America, according to the department.

Calgary Fire Department was first in North America to train members in high-angle rescues

The technical teams with high-angle rescue training are strategically stationed at two locations in the city to cover the entire population. (Calgary Fire Department)

Cases where elevator cables snap are rare, and yet the Calgary Fire Department was ready for the situation which required a complicated "high-angle rescue" last Friday at the Calgary Tower. 

Eight individuals needed to climb out of the ceiling of the broken elevator, and while harnessed shimmy over to a second, functioning elevator car that was brought alongside. All of this was done safely with the help of Calgary firefighters. 

Captain Todd Dyer is a member of the expert team behind the rescue, performed approximately 10 storeys up.

He says he's happy the rescue was so successful and that he was able to put his training to work. 

"This is what you sign up for," he told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.

Dyer says the positive attitudes of the eight people they rescued made the job easier.

"Kudos to them as well for their bravery. They are awesome. They had great spirits," he said. "I think there is enough of them that they were keeping it light and just made some jokes and stuff like that to ease the pressure."

Those rescued, Calgary Tower staff and an elevator safety expert have all come together to commend the firefighters on their performance in a challenging and dramatic extraction effort. 

"The fire crew team was really good and reassuring, and standing by — the group of them — holding your hand and guiding you over," Jessica Dube told CBC News after being rescued from the elevator. 

The Calgary Fire Department's technical rescue teams are frequently refreshing their training for challenging rescues. (Calgary Fire Department)

What is a high-angle rescue?

Friday's incident was responded to by both of the fire department's two technical rescue teams — so over a dozen members. The teams are trained in many different rescue techniques including the high-angle rescue which was needed in the elevator shaft.

CFD describes a high-angle rescue as any situation that requires ropes to be used. 

Calgary firefighters practise high-angle rescues involving injured and trapped victims. (Calgary Fire Department)

What other situations can they be used in?

Cases where high-angle rescues are done are not generally as high-profile as the Calgary Tower incident. One of the most common uses of the technique in Calgary is to save people who have become stranded on steep river banks or ravines.

Other circumstances that demand high-angle rescues include:

  • On the exterior of buildings.
  • On the interior of buildings or shafts.
  • On construction sites.
  • In or on tower cranes.
  • On bridges.
  • On electrical transmission towers.

The Calgary Fire Department has trained members in this technique since 1983, in what the department says was a first in North America at the time. 

District Chief Brian Neis told the Calgary Eyeopener that although the expert team doesn't see these calls often, they're some of the highest risk calls.

"Not only to the public, but to our members," said Neis. "As such, our guys do have to put in a lot of hours training and making sure their skills are up to speed for this."

High-angle rescues can also be performed on the exterior of buildings. (Calgary Fire Department)
An elevator shaft actually offers a lot of room to manoeuvre when compared with some of the other situations Calgary firefighters prepare for. (Calgary Fire Department)
In the case that someone trapped is injured, baskets are used in the rescue as space allows. (Calgary Fire Department)

With files from Sarah Lawrynuik and the Calgary Eyeopner


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