Viewfinders: Rescue techs go over the edge of Natchez bluffs

Published 1:05 am Thursday, April 18, 2019


NATCHEZ — Kristopher Gutierrez, Christian Bankhead and Matt Baez, all of Houston, Texas, spent Tuesday rappelling off the Natchez bluff, but it wasn’t just for the thrill of it.

Instead, it was practice for their work.

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The three men are high-angle, rope rescue technicians for Code Red Safety, a rescue company headquartered in Hammond, Indiana, that provides services throughout the United States to various large industrial and commercial construction or maintenance jobs.

Baez, who has worked in the profession for six years, said the bluff was a perfect spot to practice using a control device referred to as a Petzl — I’D descender, which allows the rescue technician to descend from a structure as long as they have a suitable anchor point, and something that can withstand 5,000 pounds.

“That type of practice,” Baez said, “that would be used whenever we have to descend upon a subject or a victim, if a victim would be suspended off of a structure there would be a point in time when a rescuer would have to descend down and descend to the victim and do what’s called a ‘pick off’ of the victim. He would have to basically attach the victim to himself and lower both of them to the ground.”

Baez said many fire departments do not even have the level of equipment Code Red Safety is using nor are many fire departments even prepared to do high-angle rescues.

“So we’re able to get somebody down off of a structure or up out of a structure and down to the ground using various mechanical advantage systems and controlled decent devises,” Baez said, comparing his work to being a lifeguard on duty.

“We’re a specialized field,” Baez said. “We’re not going to be called in an emergency situation. We’re basically already on site in the event where something would occur. There are all sorts of hazards when you’re working in an industrial field, atmospheric hazards, environmental hazards, so were required to be there.”