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Firefighters complete rescue training while dangling from ceiling

Members of the MABAS 43 Technical Rescue team are completing rope rescue training Wednesday and Thursday at the Vibrant Arena.

MOLINE, Ill. — Quad City area firefighters are trading in ladders for ropes this week.

Members of the MABAS 43 Technical Rescue Team are completing rope rescue training on Wednesday and Thursday at the Vibrant Arena.

MABAS, or Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, has members from the Bettendorf, Rock Island, Moline, East Moline and Rock Island Arsenal fire departments.

They're volunteers from the departments who commit to extra training and can be dispatched to both local and national emergencies.

"We've had some major ones in the past. The Maquoketa Caves rescue was kind of a big one for us," said Mike Martin, a Bettendorf firefighter. "In the spring we just had Cordova for a trench rescue where our guys were dispatched to that and were able to help get the person out."

On Wednesday, the team spent hours starting their training on the ground, preparing and double-checking their gear.

"We have a lot of checks and balances, everything gets checked more than once," Martin said. "We have built-in safety factors also, so if something does go wrong, we're prepared for that."

Once they got familiar with the equipment on the ground, the firefighters suited up in harnesses and began rappelling down from the rafters of the ceiling at the arena.

A rope rescue would be used in a situation where their ladders can't reach someone. Martin gives the example of a window washer or someone stuck on the 15th floor of a building.

"When the (I-74) bridge was being built, there was a lot of stuff we pre-planned for; rescuing somebody who was below grade welding or in a confined space," said Tim Weller, a member of the Rock Island Arsenal Fire Department. "If there's a rooftop or elevated platform that somebody's working on and we need to get them down, we can build a system to lower if there's not a stairwell or they're not capable of going down a ladder."

Weller said dangling from the ceiling looks more dangerous than it is.

"I think it gives the appearance of danger," he said. "We're extremely redundant with everything we do. We go above and beyond. Our ropes are extremely strong, all our equipment's rated for rescue."

MABAS 43 trains together monthly to help prepare for any situation. Martin calls it "99% preparation, 1% application."

The team wraps up rope rescue training on Thursday.

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