The story has been entertaining folks for years. East River Electric Power Cooperative employee Paul Lambert was on one of the cooperative’s communication towers with retired employee Joel Brick.
“We’re at 250 feet in the air. I’m on the outside of the tower and all of a sudden I feel a jolt,” Lambert said, beginning the narrative. He looked to see what had caused this and discovered Brick had started to loosen the bolt for the brace to which he was fastened.
Both men laugh as they relate the story which highlights the need for what Lambert was doing with a crew from East River at a cell tower owned by Interlakes Wireless on Tuesday afternoon – tower rescue training.
“We’re just practicing on a short tower,” Lambert said. “We have towers up to 500 feet.”
Each of the men receiving the training was put into the role of the victim, so that he would know how it felt to be suspended in a harness, and the role of the rescuer, so he would be familiar with the block-and-tackle equipment used to lower an incapacitated individual to the ground. Brandon Foster, safety training coordinator at Vikor Teleconstruction, provided the training.
The partnership for this training between East River Electric and Interlakes Wireless, which is owned by Brick, was the result of the longstanding friendship between Lambert and Brick. While traveling together, Lambert mentioned the training and Brick said he had an employee who also needed the training.
“I have a new tower. Let’s put it all together,” Brick told Lambert.
The tower used for the training is located in Lakeview Industrial Park. Through microwave dishes mounted on the tower, Interlakes Wireless transmits Internet service to customers on Lake Madison, Lake Herman, Brant Lake and the surrounding rural areas.
Lambert indicated training is held annually to ensure East River employees are prepared should an accident or equipment malfunction occur which would require a tower rescue.
“Most search and rescue teams are not equipped to do high elevation rescues, so we have to be equipped to do it,” he explained. To date, he noted, a situation has not occurred which required them to use the training.
As the men practiced, well above the roofline of the building adjoining the tower, they worked quickly but did not take shortcuts. They checked their lanyards before putting the victim in the harness which would be used to lower him to the ground using a pulley system.
“When they lower a person down the way they are, they’re using a mountaineering technique,” Brick explained.
As the rescuer descends the tower, he must control not only himself but the victim as well, according to Lambert. Because the harness can cut off circulation in the groin area, the rescue needs to go as quickly as it safely can to prevent the victim from going into shock.
Because of the longstanding relationship with Vikor Teleconstruction, and because the men were familiar with the equipment and techniques, the training wrapped up in a couple of hours.
“When we did this years ago, we did not have this nice stuff to work with,” Brick observed as he watched.