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Gondola Evacuation

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From ‘Passenger Gondola Evacuation’

The following is an excerpt from the chapter about Personnel Traits;

“The lift has stopped in the early evening during the first week of June. It has been unseasonably warm this year, and the temperature today is 27 degrees Celsius (81 F), and the thunderstorm that just roared through the valley appears to have been in some way responsible for the lift being stopped. Maybe it was lightning, maybe it was wind, and maybe it was the flood of water at the base. Who knows, the mechanics are trying to sort it out right now,  but the storms gone and what’s left is a very quiet, muggy, warm evening and darkness is only about 90 minutes or so away.

The period of uncertainty following the stop lasts for about 40 minutes before a clear decision of the need to evacuate the lift is made, and as rescuers areassemblingand donning gear for the effort, headlamp batteries are being checked on all of the helmets.

The harnesses you bought are adjustable through size small to large to accommodate the greatest number of people, but no extra small or extra-large or ‘tall’ or ‘hefty’ harnesses are in the equipment room.

The failing light means no helicopters to support the evacuation, at least not until the morning and hopefully this will all be long since over by the time the sun comes back up again. Since the road access was washed out in the storm just 100m (300’) above the base station, rescuers are going to need to hike most of the way up the mountain to reach the lift access points prior to starting the evacuation.

So all the rescuers are going to have to carry everything, from cable trolleys to ground support and belay equipment to personal safety kit the entire 7 kilometres up the access road. This, along with an elevation gain of 1100m (3400’) just to get into position to get started. Those rescuers that are walking to the most distant points will be nearly 2 hours just getting into position to begin.

Altogether, coveralls, helmets with lamps, spare batteries for radios and lights, harnesses, ropes, safeties, spare slings and hardware, each rescuers kit weighs nearly 30 kilos (66 Lbs.). And of course the start of this hike isn’t even at sea level, everyone is already at about 1500m (4500’) ASL just standing at the base.

Along the way some brief showers roll through again, and the entire team is thoroughly soaked as they begin to deploy at the bottom of the access towers. The ladders are all still wet, and it’s immediately apparent why there is ladder climbing gear in the equipment sets for each cable rescuer. Climbing the ladders is pretty easy most of the time, but those rungs get really greasy when beaded up like that.

Around 9 o’clock the wind begins to come up and begins gusting, the apparent inflow to that previous storm, now said to be spawning tornadoes some 40 miles away. Wind isn’t really an obstacle to the evacuation, but the line is bouncing around somewhat, and passengers in the cabins aren’t any more comfortable because of it. The wind also has the effect of drowning out, or muffling sounds and radios have become more difficult to hear now. Every once in a while a couple of short whistle blasts are heard from one section or another of the lift as Cable Rescuers try to get the attention of their Ground Crew members.

Around 11P.M. you begin a series of radio calls interrogating rescuers for progress updates, and from their replies, along with the headlamps you can see along the visible sections of the line, you feel  reassured all is going well. But it’s still going to be another couple of hours before the line is completely cleared.

Somewhere on the lift in the upper section one of the team trainers stops for a brief rest at the top of one of the towers.  Having just lowered the occupants of three cabins to the ground it’s necessary to take a quick breather before moving onto the next two cabins tasked to her. She notes her headlamp doesn’t even illuminate the ground below, to be expected probably, given this tower is 39m (128’) tall. The wind is really howling now, and rain was beginning to fall again, seen as horizontal streaks of light in the beam of her headlamp. The ‘get ready’ call came just as she had sat down for dinner, and that was after a full day of work in her ‘day job’. So instead of dinner it was energy gel from a tetra pak at the top of a cold, dark, wet steel tower. Yum. It settled the grumbles coming from her gut before launching into the next section, but there is a striking solitude in dining alone at the top of a tower like this.”

 …..

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Written by snappledagain

06/18/2013 at 10:37

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