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Morning drill is practice for enXco workers

Julie buntjer/Daily Globe enXco employees bring a victim from Tower 42 to awaiting ambulance and rescue workers during a training exercise. The scenario included a victim getting shocked by high voltage in the wind turbine and being unresponsive when co-workers arrived.

RUSHMORE -- A man's voice echoed across a hand-held radio Tuesday morning, notifying a group of enXco workers that a technician was in cardiac arrest and unresponsive at the top of Tower 42 after sustaining an electrical shock inside the wind turbine.

Volunteers from Rushmore Fire and Rescue were paged to the scene, as were several workers from Sanford Worthington Ambulance and Worthington Fire Department.

All the emergency responders could do upon arrival was stand, wait and listen for an update from within the tower about their victim. Meanwhile, more than half a dozen enXco workers were inside the tower, some initiating CPR on the victim as others rigged up rescue equipment and secured the victim in a sked for transport down the interior of the tower walls.

Heart compressions were performed on the unresponsive male twice along the 285-foot span from the top of the tower to the concrete floor below.

Had this been a real emergency, enXco workers and first responders wouldn't have done anything different.

Tuesday's rescue drill was the first "live scenario" practiced by enXco workers since the 134-tower Nobles Wind Farm was completed last year. The drill was not only to measure the response of enXco employees, but to provide an on-scene experience for rescue workers.

Nobles County Emergency Management Director Emily Cenzano coordinated the drill with the company at one of Nobles Wind Farm's most remote towers. The Xcel Energy-owned tower 42 is located nearly three-fourths of a mile off of a dead-end gravel road north of Rushmore.

"enXco has some really good policies," said Cenzano, adding that the company requires its employees to complete annual training exercises. All are trained in basic first aid, CPR and use of an external defibrillator.

enXco is one of the few wind energy companies that actually has a presence in Nobles County. With offices in Reading and an operations control center at Chandler, the company has 11 employees who provide daily maintenance to the wind turbines.

Chris Burch, operations manager for Nobles Wind Farm, was pleased with the response time on Tuesday.

"I'm very impressed," he said. From the time the Code Blue call was made to the time the victim was brought to the awaiting ambulance, one hour had passed.

Not only did the drill give employees an opportunity to practice an emergency response, it put them in contact with fire and rescue workers from the communities near where they work.

"The goal was to get local EMS involved in case of an emergency out here," Burch said of the training exercise. "It's a good way to get to know each other."

enXco's onsite safety specialist, Tom Wiekeraad, had previously worked with departments, including the Adrian and Worthington Ambulance, and Rushmore, Wilmont and Worthington Fire Departments in table-top exercises.

"This is the first company that actually has really helped us out," said Worthington Fire Chief Rick Von Holdt. Because the towers are located predominantly in the Rushmore and Wilmont fire districts, Worthington would only be called in to assist with mutual aid if there was an actual emergency.

Burch said he appreciated the volunteer work of fire, rescue and ambulance personnel Tuesday morning. If ever there is a real emergency at a tower site, he hopes trainings like these help prepare rescuers to respond safely.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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