Tied Up in Knots: ERT to the Rescue
Aug 07, 2017
Meet Shell Puget Sound Refinery’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) and learn more about the importance of the ERT to the site – and the surrounding community.
Who do you call when incidents (and illness) happen? No, it’s not the Ghostbusters – it’s PSR’s Emergency Response Team, also known as the ERT.
PSR’s ERT plays a critical role for the site, and roughly 130 members serve on the team across rope rescue, medical, fire, hazmat and oil spill response. It’s important to note that the ERT is completely volunteer-based.
“These are the folks on the front lines who will be there when things don’t go as planned,” said HSSE Manager Kim Ort. “They put themselves in harm’s way because they care about everyone at the site.”
Meet the medical and rope rescue team
The ERT’s medical and rope rescue group has about 35 members with a combined total of 266 years of experience, and numerous members also volunteer outside of the plant for firefighting, search and rescue, ski patrol, etc.
Several members recently completed a training course along Chuckanut Dr. near Bellingham, Wash. that focused on high-angle rescue, and the team invited GM Shirley Yap, HR Manager Robin Yates and HSSE Manager Kim Ort to participate. Yap, Yates and Ort were all very impressed by the leadership and professionalism displayed by everyone.
“Their commitment to safety was just phenomenal,” said HR Manager Robin Yates. “Everyone ran spot checks to ensure folks were safe, and they repeated commands to ensure alignment. The military-like precision and crisp communication that I saw was inspiring.”
Members rely on extensive training to ensure readiness
Alky/Poly Operator Darrel Vaught is the rope rescue team lead and has served on the team for about 10 years. Like all of the ERT members, Vaught is very passionate about his role as a medical/rescue technician. He said the 3,500 man hours of training the team completes each year takes them away from family and other work activities, but it’s crucial to delivering successful responses.
“Rope rescue is a high risk and low frequency task, so we need to be prepared,” he said. “Ongoing training is paramount to maintaining this perishable skill.”
Training occurs 12 times/year, and each member of the team attends roughly six training sessions/year. Most of the sessions take place over two consecutive days.
RPS Outside Operator Nathan Yount serves as the medical rescue team lead. He worked part-time as a firefighter in addition to volunteering with the Mt. Erie Fire Department before joining PSR as an operator. Yount said the most challenging aspect of serving on the ERT is staying up-to-date on the skills needed to respond successfully.
“There’s a lot of peer-to-peer training that goes on outside of the formal training,” he said. “I love it when I see more experienced members mentoring and coaching newer members. We’re always looking for ways to make each other better. It’s continuous improvement at its finest.”
Joe Solomon, who serves as PSR’s Emergency Response Coordinator and the site’s ERT lead, said, “I am very proud to have each and every one of our responders on the teams. I’d also like to extend a giant ‘thank you’ to all of the employees who regularly give up their personal time to cover for our ERT members when they need to attend trainings.”
Team says ‘we before me’
Vaught’s favorite part of serving on the ERT is “being able to use my skills to aid someone who might be having the worst day of their life. That’s an incredible gift.”
“We’re all doing this for the right reasons,” he said. “There are no heroes here, and egos go out the window. It’s all about how well we work together as a team. That’s the only way we’ll be successful during an emergency.”
Yount agreed and stressed the importance of safety during a response. “The rescue systems we use have a lot of redundancy and safety factors built into them to ensure that the technician and victim are protected,” he said. “We run a cross-check on all aspects of the system before we put people’s lives on the line.”
Ride-alongs provide real-time experience
Moving forward, the entire team plans to do ‘ride-alongs’ with the King County and Snohomish County EMS.
“The ride-alongs provide us with real-life hands-on experience where we can put what we learned in training to the test and identify areas of improvement,” said Yount. “If you don’t use the skills you learn on a regular basis then they don’t stick with you. You don’t have time to think during a response, so you want your skills to become second nature.”
Never underestimate the power of trust
GM Shirley Yap said she learned more than she ever could have imagined during the recent training.
“I was blown away by how much ERT members have to remember. There are numerous rescue techniques and scenarios, and they often only have a few minutes to respond – before someone could die or be seriously injured,” she said.
She paused for a second before adding, “You have to trust your teammates and have 100% faith in their abilities and intentions. That’s often challenging for many of us to do at work and in our personal lives, but the ERT does it every single day.”
To everyone who serves on the ERT, we thank you for your dedication to our site and the well-being of everyone who works here!