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Posted on Mon, Nov 12, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Rescue team simulates crane rescue on downtown Ann Arbor high-rise

By Erica Hobbs

Members of the Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team got a lesson in high ropes crane rescue Sunday. The countywide specialty rescue team simulated a medical emergency rescue scenario in a crane as part of its monthly trainings. The simulation took place at the O’Neal Construction site on the corner of First and Washington streets in Ann Arbor with the cooperation of the Connelly Crane Rental Corporation who supplies the cranes for the site.

“This simulates a lot of different scenarios,” Team Director Dan Cain said. “As more buildings are built, the odds of this happening go up.”

In the training, two teams of 12 members each were asked to use high ropes and a rescue basket to safely bring down a person as if he had been in trapped in a crane operating cabin. Each team trained using ropes anchored from above as well as from the ground using the site’s two tower cranes, measuring at 164 feet and 108 feet, respectively.

“This is really dangerous training,” Cain said.

Chris Turowski, safety director for Connelly Crane who requested the simulation, said crane rescues are uncommon, but they do happen.

“It’s very rare, but we need to be prepared if the situation comes up,” he said.

The simulation was just one of a series of rotating specialty trainings the team conducts monthly, though it was the team’s first crane rescue training. Cain said training includes a minimum of two simulations each annually for structural collapse, confined space, rope and trench rescue with at least one heavy equipment rescue.

Past trainings have included confined space rescue simulation at the Ford Dam in Ypsilanti and a heavy equipment rescue simulation at Brewer’s Towing in Ann Arbor last month, where team members were trained to rescue people trapped in cars that had been in crashes with semi-trucks. He also said Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti often allows the team to use university buildings to conduct trainings.

Art Cole, a crane operator with Connelly Crane, said though emergencies are not common, he loves that they’re training for crane rescue.

“I think it should happen more often,” he said. “I’m all for safety, especially when I’m up there.”

Firefighters who participated in the training said they were a little nervous at attempting the dangerous rescue scenario but more excited to try new skill sets.

“It’s different than regular firefighting,” Pittsfield Firefighter Michael Chevrette said. “It kind of makes you think outside the box a little bit more.”

Ann Arbor Firefighter Bryce McAllister said he joined to add the services of his rescue dog who is certified to detect live victims, especially useful in structure collapses. He said he also enjoys learning new things.

“We learn skills we can use in everyday life,” he said.

The Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team officially began in early 2010 after three years of planning to address rescue needs requiring specialized skills and equipment, including rope, confined spaces, trench and building collapse rescue incidents.

The 52-member team is made up of firefighters from fire departments across the county as well as paramedics from Huron Valley Ambulance under the oversight of Board of Directors comprised of fire chiefs from across the county. While team members are paid by their individual fire departments, training and equipment funding for the team have come from a variety of sources, including the United States Department of Homeland Security, the University of Michigan and St. Joseph Mercy hospitals and the Washtenaw/Livingston Medical Control Authority.

Since its beginning, the team has been called out five times, including two gas explosions, a worker who fell into a basement and the Dexter tornadoes.



Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

Yikes. I'm definitely not cut out for that. Got goosebumps just looking at the pictures.

Cendra Lynn

Tue, Nov 13, 2012 : 6:36 a.m.

I am SO jealous! Next time give me a call and I'll help with the photos, especially from on high. :-)

Dog Guy

Mon, Nov 12, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

The Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team is demonstrating foresight. With so many planned tall buildings, Ann Arbor is going to continue as a crane sanctuary for many years.

Linda Peck

Mon, Nov 12, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

Mr Brenner, these are amazing photographs! Thank you! Thank you fireman for doing this incredible work!


Mon, Nov 12, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

my hats off to the guys who do this type of work !


Mon, Nov 12, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.

...........and gals.


Mon, Nov 12, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

Nice photos.