Over the past years, the International Rescue & Emergency Care Association (IRECA) partnered with the Fires Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the promotion, recognition, integration, and technical excellence among various public safety organizations throughout Latin America (primarily) and throughout the world.

Fires Foundation Director German Lopez led a team that was tasked to develop and execute an educational conference with competition-style third-party validation events. This led Lopez to associate with IRECA, who in their 71st year, have been conducting annual conferences and multiple challenge events per year. The result was the International Technical Rescue Conference, or ITREC for short, and the first annual event was held in Houston, Texas at the Houston Fire Training Facility adjacent to William Hobby Airport.

Earlier this year, 10 teams competed in Bogota, Colombia in various scenarios including skills such as rescuing an individual (in a simple manner), but also for their work with confined space rescuing, technical rope rescue, and collapse situations. The Bogota conference was held in conjunction with the School of Medicine at the Pontifical Xavierian University, who according to Lopez is world-renowned for its pioneering research and has been home to many of the finest physicians in Middle and South America.

Each team in the competition event was comprised of seven specialists who were subjected to simulated scenarios that recreate accidents and real emergency situations, while offering a structured and scenario-directed learning environment. One resource for the Fires Foundation in their pursuit of technical rescue excellence, as well as to the ITREC family with regard to producing such an event, was those of the current IRECA president - Reggie Nalley.

He has been invited to instruct as well as evaluate teams at each of the ITREC events, and has been an active instructor for a Fires Foundation team that competed at the IRECA conference in the past years. Nalley commented on how impressed he was with the outcome of the event, and expressed surprise at one team in particular who was comprised of physicians, nurses, and medical students from the Pontifical Xavierian University. He stated that their participation was primarily to learn more about rescue responses in general, and to understand the mechanisms of trauma related to what they may see in an emergency.

In addition to the competition events, workshops were held at the ITREC event over various rescue topics related to current trends in backboarding spinal injuries, advanced SCBA usage, and various techniques at rapid, efficient vehicle extrication. Uniquely, the instructors for these workshops were not solely from Bogota or even the United States - rather they hail from a combination of the U.S., Spain, and Latin America.

According to Lopez, the Fires Foundation mission is to promote standardization of rescue-related responses both in a safe and efficient manner, while also adhering to the NFPA standards that govern such a response. This mission was prompted based on direct and varying experiences found throughout Latin America, where training methods and response models were found to be effective, but not always consistent from country to country.

By promoting participation in ITREC, the Fires Foundation’s objective according to Lopez, is to create or improve upon existing protocols and operating procedures with unified techniques, ideally leading to increased cohesiveness between rescuers as well as improved efficiency of rescue responses and outcomes.

The ITREC conference was also supported by various organizations throughout the Americas including the Houston Fire Academy, IRECA, SAFE Rescue, Bogota & Villa Ballester Fire Department, and SFFMA.

In 2019, ITREC will be traveling to Arag ó n, Spain where participants will be invited to workshops covering current issues relevant to rescue and emergency medicine not only to the Americas, but to the global community at large. All are also invited to the 2019 IRECA/TEEX Conference & Challenges being held June 17-21, 2019 at Texas A&M University’s Brayton Fire Field. More details can be found at www.ireca.org.