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Salute the Badge: Extreme winter conditions pose challenges for - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Salute the Badge: Extreme winter conditions pose challenges for Missoula first responders

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This report is part of our Salute the  Badge special series where we get to know our law enforcement and emergency responders on a more personal level.


MISSOULA - In weather like we’re having, emergencies move to an entirely new level of challenge. Deep snow, extreme cold and our mountain terrain present problems unique to the Northern Rockies.

Even for a city fire department like Missoula, training to deal with winter rescues needs to be a part of the equation.

“Well, you to start out with it’s going to be some land navigation," said Missoula Fire Dept. Training Officer Terran Lohman. "We’re going to be given coordinates or a pretty basic remote location of a patient. From there we’ll get to the patient and do a patient assessment, patient care, patient treatment. And all that, hopefully we’ll end up with a patient extraction. So getting them back down to a place where they can either get airlifted or ground transportation.”

Missoula firefighters spent a long day training at Snow Bowl, “rescuing” a gun shot victim from a wooded area, with a second team trekking far up the mountain for a patient who’d fallen from the chair lift. That requires anticipating not only the medical and rescue equipment, but what the teams need, from GPS units to food, water and even the ability to shelter and start a fire as needed.

And they need to stay safe themselves, even though this is just training. 

“We just talked about that in our safety briefing. We actually have an incident within an incident plan," Lohman said. "And if one of us, anybody that’s up here today gets injured or sick then that becomes first priority.”

For Lohman, training the MFD crews is not only a passion, but an absolute necessity. In a community as varied as Missoula, with as much outdoor recreation as we have, you just never know what emergencies might happen. 

Everything’s new and that’s kind of the nature of the business. You don’t know what you;‘re going to get any given day. And so that’s the experience is trying to train for what you don’t know you need to train for.”

“Perfect example of that was the avalanche just a few years ago. Who’d have thought we’d have an avalanche in town.’

“If we have the training and and the experience and the tools we can hopefully be prepared for any kind of situation. 

And the firefighters say you can help by being better prepared yourselves when heading out for recreation, especially in these kinds of conditions.

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