Friday, October 28, 2005

Trench Collapses: Rescue is Good, Prevention is Better

This seems like good news:
Dave Trzcianka, chief of the Baden Volunteer Fire Department, was tired of crews waiting for backup when helping victims at trench and building collapses and other rescue sites.


Trzcianka said Beaver County fire and rescue workers often must rely on help from the city of Pittsburgh or farther away when facing a difficult accident. By training the three departments, Trzcianka said rescuers should be able to reach any Beaver County accident within 30 minutes.
The problem is that for trench collapses, 30 minutes is likely to be about a half hour too late. According to
A cube of soil measuring 1 ft. on a side weighs around 100 lb. A cubic yard of soil contains 27 of these, or 2700 lbs. total. This weighs about as much as a mid-sized automobile. A trench wall collapse might contain 3 to 5 cubic yards of soil, weighing from 8,000 to 14,000 lbs.

A person buried under only a couple of feet of soil would experience enough pressure on the chest area to prevent their lungs from expanding. Suffocation would take place within about 3 minutes. Even if the person is rescued in time, the heavy soil loads are likely to inflict serious internal injuries. A person buried in earth as high as his diaphragm, would not be able to dig himself out, and his chances of survival are low. If the face is even partially covered, death is almost certain.
It might be better for the county to make an extra effort to make sure that construction companies use trench boxes and other means to prevent the collapses in the first place.