When the stakes are high, Dakota Gas employees are prepared

man doing rope rescue training
Dawson Kaylor, Dakota Gas maintenance field technician, is lowered via rope by his team during an exercise to practice rope rescues.

Picture this: You’re working at Dakota Gasification Company. As you’re performing your job an accident happens, and you end up in a threatening situation where you need help. Suddenly your worries turn to relief when you see members from Protection Services and the fire/rescue team arrive to help you.

This is the type of scenario the fire/rescue team is trained to handle. This team plays a vital role at the plant, with employees’ safety literally lying in their hands. They are on-call 24/7/365, providing rapid and effective emergency response to a wide range of incidents, including fires, medical emergencies, hazardous material spills, pipeline emergency response, confined space rescues, and high angle rope rescues.

Rope rescues in particular present unique challenges and require specialized skills and knowledge to ensure safe and effective outcomes. In these scenarios, specialized rope techniques and equipment are used to perform rescues in challenging environments within Dakota Gas. This could involve situations such as rescuing workers from confined spaces, retrieving individuals from heights or elevated structures, or extracting personnel from hazardous environments.

Over the past several years, the fire/rescue team completed eight hours of training per year, mostly conducted internally.

Safety and teamwork are two values of Basin Electric, which is why Brian Heinert, Protection Services supervisor at Dakota Gas, and Claude O’Berry, Pipeline Operations & Protection Services superintendent at Dakota Gas, knew it was important to invest in their team by providing them with an advanced training program.

Heinert got to work and started getting bids from multiple rope rescue companies.

“Training is important to stay current with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and NFPA (The National Fire Protection Association) regulations and recommendations, and we didn’t have the innovations and knowledge to take our training to the next level on our own,” Heinert says.

After researching the industry leaders, Roco Rescue, a widely recognized leader in the field of rescue training, was selected to provide the team with a custom, hands-on training program. An intensive four-day, 40-hour course was developed to dive deep into OSHA and NFPA requirements, ensuring that team members were fully versed in the latest requirements and best practices for rope rescue operations.

“This particular training was chosen because it had all the different types of rescues the team may encounter, like rope rescue, confined space rescue, and high angle rescue,” O’Berry says. “But we also needed to have buy-in from everyone because the commitment would be to give up their four days off to attend. This dedicated group is always open to training to enhance their skills and are willing to put in the extra time, and this venture proved no different.”

Given the range of emergencies the team may encounter at the plant, Heinert and O’Berry decided it was essential every team member who responds to emergencies at Dakota Gas attended the training. Involving everyone helped ensure the entire team has the necessary expertise to respond confidently and competently to each situation, and that everyone shares a consistent approach to rescue operations.

“We decided to send our whole department – fire/rescue team members and the fire brigade team. The trainings were done by specific crews to foster teamwork and comradery. The goal is to train with the people you will fight alongside,” Heinert says.

“Very seldom are we able to send the whole team together as we were with this training, so everyone seemed excited about that,” O’Berry says.

Because having sufficient coverage at the plant is critical, adjustments were needed to the on-call schedule. The team members not attending training a particular week helped by providing any extra coverage needed.

While Roco Rescue conducted the training, North Dakota Safety Council also played a large role by providing a top-of-the-line indoor training facility.

“NDSC provided us with an amazing indoor training facility, helping us receive the highest quality training available. Going forward, we can continue to receive our refresher training there any time of year, which is extremely helpful since we don’t have consistently nice weather here,” Heinert says.

When it comes to training, there’s no substitute for hands-on exercises to gain experience for real-world scenarios. The team benefitted by practicing with the tools they would need in a rope rescue situation. They used a rigging system that uses specialized equipment, like ropes, anchors, pulleys, tripods, and belay devices to safely lower or raise individuals to a secure location.

After completing the intense training in rope rescue and other emergency response techniques, Heinert says the team gained a deeper understanding of safety protocols and the importance of adhering to them consistently. This heightened awareness translates into safer practices across all aspects of our operations, reducing the likelihood of accidents or incidents occurring in the first place.

Training is not just an OSHA and NFPA requirement; it’s a fundamental aspect of maintaining readiness and ensuring the safety of personnel – both the rescuer and the individual in distress. Attending ongoing training and having a culture of continued improvement ensures that safety remains the top priority for the Protection Services and fire/rescue team in all aspects of their operations.

“We learned so much about where our deficiencies are and how we can rectify them to stay OSHA and NFPA compliant,” Heinert says. “I can honestly say this was some of the best training I have received, and I feel extremely confident in the readiness of our team.”

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