How to choose the best rescue worker on land, the sea or the air

How to choose the best rescue worker on land, the sea or the air
Moscow hosted the finals of the Moscow Masters competition among rescue workers. Contestants provided first aid to traffic accident victims, cut metal obstacles and climbed a tower using mountain climbing harnesses. reports on the event.   

If cutting iron bars, raising heavy concrete slabs or climbing a wall to the third floor is not your idea of fun, you are not a rescue worker, because these crew members are accustomed to doing things like this. Moscow hosted the finals of the Moscow Masters competition among rescue workers. visited one of the competition sites and shares its impressions of the event.

Each contestant passed through three stages during the day. One test required rock climbing skills, one showed traffic accident rescue skills and the third demonstrated procedures in emergency situation at an industrial facility.  

A scenario, props and equipment were prepared for each stage, as well as dummies that served as victims. These were not just plastic dolls – each dummy weighed 70 to 80 kilogrammes. Some of them are connected to sensors showing if a rescuer is doing the right thing. The tasks are difficult and rescuers must know what to do. In real life, they have to save people not dummies.

The finals were run by Moscow’s Department for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Fire Safety.

Rock climbing

The competition site was a three-storey wooden tower with windows. According to the scenario, two athletes were training to climb the tower when suddenly an explosion occurred at a plant located close to the site and the athletes were hit by a blast wave. One of them was killed and the other lost consciousness and was hanging by his equipment. Dummies were used to represent the victims and the contestants were rescue workers.

The contestant has to take the fatally wounded athlete to the third floor and hook himself up to the unconscious person so he can take him down. In this stage, there are a target response time (20 minutes) and a maximum time allowed to carry out the task (30 minutes). If a contestant runs past the target response time, 12 points are deducted for each minute; if he fails to meet the maximum response time deadline, he gets no points for the task. The maximum number of points a contestant can get at this stage is 450.    

“We give penalty points for violating safety rules, say, the misuse of safety hooks or ropes,” judge Alexander Kvitko said. “We also take off points if a contestant treats the victim carelessly.”  

The finalists take turns with the task. A rope is secured between the ground and the first floor of the tower, which contestants use to get to the first level. This is called slanted crossing. Next, using a set of ropes and other equipment, the contestants climb up and down the tower. They have to pull up, unhook and hook on again, while carrying 70-kilogramme victims.

“The most difficult thing to do was to pull a dummy from the ground up to the third floor,” finalist Yury Yesikov said. “It took me about 24 minutes to do that, which is four minutes more than the target response time. I was also given a penalty point for failing to buckle the safety hook. But I’m satisfied with the result.”

Traffic accidents

The next stage of the competition features a yellow taxi cab standing by a railway crossing, with two victims lying nearby on the ground. Dummies are used as victims, or, to be exact, one and a half dummy, however bizarre this sounds. One whole dummy lies behind the car’s rear wheel and an upper half of the other dummy can be found a couple of metres away.  A cardiopulmonary resuscitation is required here.

“According to the scenario, we had two victims,” judge Maxim Zhdan says. “One suffered a cardiac arrest and is unconscious and the other has been run over by a car. The latter has an open shin fracture and an arterial hemorrhage. Rescue workers have to assess the situation, choose the correct tactics and deliver first aid.”

The remaining half of the dummy proves to be the most interesting part of the test as it is connected to sensors that show various graphs on the computer screen. When a contestant is pushing the victim’s chest, the monitor shows a sine curve. The more even the curve is, the better the rescue worker is doing. Another graph shows if a rescue worker is providing correct artificial breathing support. The sensors will also determine if the contestant doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation holds his hands in the wrong position or is pumping the chest too hard. In real life, this could lead to broken ribs, so the judges attach special importance to this.

“The most difficult part of the job at this stage is cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which must be done rhythmically for five minutes,” said Dmitry Shpolyansky, a contestant. “You shouldn’t push too hard or too weak, so air can be pumped into the artificial heart, and be careful about breathing in correctly unless the victim’s lungs are burst.”

The other dummy has a device with red liquid connected to it, which looks like an IV. “The device simulates arterial bleeding,” a judge said. “It shows if a rescue worker is applying a bandage correctly. If he doesn’t, the liquid will pour out of the bag.”   

Emergency situations

Admittedly, the most complicated and interesting stage of the competition is providing first aid during industrial accidents. The competition was not held in an abandoned building covered with piles of debris, as one might imagine. The competition site is a so-called cage, or a long narrow tunnel made of iron bars. The victim dummy lies at the end of the tunnel and the passage to it is obstructed by several grates and a reinforced concrete slab.

A rescuer must move along the tunnel, cutting and removing the obstacles with a gasoline blow torch and spreader-cutters. Each tool weighs over 10 kilogrammes. In addition, he has to pull a stretcher along the narrow tunnel while crawling in a full working suit. It wouldn’t be easy to find someone who envies these tough finalists.

“The scenario has it that a worker has climbed down the collector and is trapped after a cave-in,” organisers said. “The victim has suffered a brain injury, a shin fracture and an external hemorrhage. A rescue worker has to get through to the victim and administer first aid, including applying a cold compress to the head, putting a helmet on and applying a bandage and a splint to his leg. Then he will have to put him on a stretcher, drag him out of the tunnel and transfer him to the ambulance crew.”

The maxim response time at this stage is 20 minutes. The maximum number of points is 400. If a rescuer fails to deliver first aid, he must leave the cage alone in order to earn at least some points.

Sergei Paramonov, who was the first to “to pass the cage”, shares his impressions with “I hit a snag with my gas torch: it wouldn’t start, so I wasted the time that I needed to help the victim. I had to leave the cage alone, as it was. But, that’s better than just to lose this stage.” 

He also said that he felt his muscles overstrain quickly as a result of working with the heavy tools, so after a while one may find it hard even to drag the stretcher.  

The temperature doesn’t help either. The protective suit, helmet and load made 20 degrees Celsius feel like 40 ะก. As the rescuers reached the end of the tunnel, their glasses mist over and they are almost groping in the dark. When they get out of the tunnel and take off their gloves, the sweat is literally streaming down their hands. Under these circumstances, if a tool fails it makes sense to withdraw from the competition. However, Vasily Rogov didn’t think so. His gas blow torch broke as he tried to remove the first obstacle but he didn’t give up and started breaking bars with the spreader-cutters.    

“The previous contestant did quite well with this gasoline blow torch but when it was my turn the disc broke,” Rogov said. “I had to use the other tool which is not designed for cutting. It makes the process much slower and more complicated.”  

Both the judges and the contestants believe the most difficult part of the competition is raising the reinforced-concrete slab. This is done with spreader-cutters. The slab is lifted a bit above the ground so support blocks can be inserted under it. A block is also inserted in the centre because the tool is heavy and it is impossible to handle it if it is held suspended. With the central block serving as a support, the slab is lifted yet higher and another row of support blocks is inserted and then the procedure is repeated several times.  

The best of the best

The finals were held at two sites over two days. While some contestants demonstrated their skills on land and in the air (at the rock climbing stage), others pulled people from the water using a pool or tank, which was monitored by the Strogino search and rescue station. The next day, the finalists swapped sites.

The points each contestant collected over the two day competition were added up. Alexander Drugov from Emergency and Rescue Team No. 8 with Moscow’s Fire Safety and Rescue Centre emerged as the winner. He accumulated 1,794 points. With 1,692 points, Dmitry Shpolyansky from the 6th unit was the runner-up. Yury Yesikov, a rescue worker at the Meshcherskaya Search and Rescue Station with the Moscow Municipal Water Search and Rescue Service, finished third, having collected 1,655 points. 
Moscow rescue workers demonstrate their top skills in real life as well. In the first half of this year alone, Muscovites have called the department’s fire safety and rescue teams over 16,000 times.  

Since the beginning of the year, Moscow rescue workers have saved the lives of 249 people, including 99 people rescued from fires and 150 victims of various accidents, including water related accidents. Rescue workers have dealt with over 2,000 fires and 332 traffic accidents. Over 300 calls made to the service were prompted by leaking gas. The most common reasons people call emergency services – over 9,000 calls – are for being locked out, help with animals, help join efforts with an ambulance or for other common mishaps.

Moscow Masters: Who are they?

Every year, people from various professions take part in the Moscow Masters competition, including cooks, hairdressers, engine operators, installers, teachers and nurses.

The competition’s main objective is to increase public awareness of these occupations and to enhance their prestige. The competition has been held since 1998. This year, people from 40 professions will compete in the main group and from 15 professions in a branch group.