New equipment helping Martinsville firefighters communicate during rescues

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MARTINSVILLE (WSLS 10) - Martinsville firefighters now have a new way to communicate.

From now on, whenever Martinsville firefighters have to rescue someone by crawling through an underground tunnel, such as a sewer pipe or a well, as was the case several years ago, those in the tunnel or the well can now communicate to firefighters on the surface using radios.

"The communication system's awesome. Basically, it felt like we were talking face to face," said Firefighter Joe Haynes after climbing out of the sewer pipe and completing a mock rescue.

The new radio system allows the firefighters underground to have their radios hardwired to the radio of the firefighters on the surface.

When firefighters go underground, their standard wireless radios lose signal.

Haynes says having the communication makes the job a lot less stressful.

"It was very much stress free," Haynes stressed. "Just the fact that we were able to talk to each other, communicate, know that somebody was on the other side it didn't feel like you had a sense of being alone."

The system cost about $20,000 and not many fire departments have this system yet, something that makes Lt. John Kaczor proud to be a member of the fire department.

"I'm extremely proud about that. That's one thing I can say about the Martinsville Fire and EMS Department here in the city of Martinsville; we are always trying to stay ahead of the curve," Kaczor pointed out.

Several years ago, firefighters had to rescue a girl who fell down a well. Because they didn't have the radio system then they had no radio communication, making it nearly impossible for the firefighters in the well to communicate with the firefighters on the surface.

"[We] went back to old school methods. Tugging on the ropes, hollering down the well," Kaczor recalled.

The department also now has a new compressed air system that has smaller tanks for the firefighters to carry, but provides more air to the firefighters allowing them to have more room and more time to work.

"From now on, for us it'll just make a huge difference in what we're able to do," Haynes said.