ON THANKSGIVING DAY 2018, Firefighter Derek Cook had finished transporting a patient in cardiac arrest to a downtown Los Angeles hospital when the unexpected happened. As he prepared to leave, a nurse anxiously requested his help assisting someone stuck in the emergency room ceiling. Hospital staff quickly escorted Cook to the radiology room. Once there, he saw a ladder that led up through a scuttle hole and through to the plenum — the area between the ceiling and the floor above that is typically used for circulation, heating and air conditioning systems.
A hospital staff member perched on the ladder called out from the opening, “I don’t think he’s breathing.” Cook ascended the ladder to evaluate the situation and found the victim lying face down, just a few feet from the scuttle hole. Hospital staff informed Cook that the victim was a maintenance worker who may have been electrocuted while working on the hospital’s electrical systems. Sure enough, when Cook peered back into the plenum, he saw the exposed electrical wiring that likely still had power coursing through. Cook and another maintenance worker initiated the rescue. They crawled through the 2-ft tall opening into the plenum, careful to avoid contact with the wiring. Cook cut through the air duct to position the victim for extraction. Along the way he used a small, hand-held voltage tester to check for hot wires.
Soon after, the rest of Cook’s task force arrived to complete the extraction. Legs first, Cook maneuvered the victim through the scuttle opening and down to the ER. LAFD members below moved the victim to a waiting gurney. As the victim was being tended to by hospital staff, the emergency room lost its power. Cook and his colleagues sprang into action using their rig to light and power the ER for the next two hours. Once power was restored, Cook and the team hurried back to the firehouse where their waiting families were gathered for Thanksgiving dinner.