The Smith parking garage on West Street stood in for a new purpose last week when western Massachusetts firefighters rappelled down its exterior walls in a training exercise. The rappel training is part of the preparation of a new unit, the Regional Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team, which is composed of firefighters from Hampshire, Franklin, Berkshire and Hampden counties, explained Daryl Springman, a Northampton firefighter and assistant team leader for the local division.

The team members will be specially qualified to conduct rescue operations at high altitudes and angles, or pulling someone out of a confined space, for example, Springman said. The campus parking facility provided an ideal training structure with its concrete walls, open spaces and central location. “It’s great to be able to have access to a facility like that,” said Springman. “Smith College has been great.”

The May 29 training involved team instructors. A larger contingent of team members will return to campus on Wednesday, June 5, for another round of rappel training.

Click on image for an enlarged view.

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View From Above. A rappelling trainer dangles some 40 feet above the ground as western Massachusetts firefighters study her technique, awaiting their turn.

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 All in the Knots. A vital aspect of rappelling is making sure the ropes are tied correctly. “We’re all about safety,” said Daryl Springman, assistant team leader. “Safety is a huge issue.”

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Your Turn Now. After team instructors watched the trainer’s technique, it was their turn to rappel down the parking garage exterior. Stepping off the roof, they lowered themselves 40 feet to the parking lot below, kicking out around the gaps.