TURK: A product born thanks to rapid intervention. Lt. Greg Turnell tells us more about his invention.

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We have a new sponsor at STATter911.com this month: TURK. It’s an invention by Greg Turnell, a lieutenant and 25 year veteran with the fire department in our Nation’s Capital. Through his career Greg has been assigned to Engine 33, Rescue Squad 1, Truck 8, Engine 6, Truck 13 and Truck 11. TURK filled a need that had become evident in recent years for any company assigned to RIT on the fireground. But rather than have me explain I asked Lt. Turnell to provide a guest column about TURK. Besides giving you more info on TURK, I thought this might be helpful for any firefighter with a product they’ve come up with, or is thinking about it, to hear first hand from someone who has been in their shoes. 


“There’s got to be a better way Lieu!” ………Those words were expressed more than once when my men had to deploy the RIT basket to the front of a burning building. And generally there were a few more colorful words added to the statement. Watching four of my five man truck team navigate this 150lb basket down the street, sometimes a couple blocks, seemed impractical for several reasons:

  1. Manpower. A one person device could free manpower to run other equipment such as ladders.        
  2. Fatigue. I’d much rather have my men conserve their energy and stamina for an actual RIT deployment than exhausting themselves while hand carrying a basket down the street.                             
  3. Safety/Injury. In one incident we had a firefighter lose his footing and fall, subsequently bringing the basket and a few of his comrades down with him. 

Our new SOPS thoroughly explained our new RIT procedures and the equipment we had to have at the ready in the event a MAYDAY was declared. How we got that equipment to the building was up to us. Identifying a capability gap is an easy thing to do; it’s done every day in the sitting room of most firehouses. However, filling that gap with a viable solution is the challenge. We toyed with different methods but they all proved to be problematic and inefficient. We had to come up with a solution that was simple to put in operation and fast to deploy. Being an avid kayaker, I remember while shark fishing at Assateague one summer, spotting a fellow pulling his kayak down the beach with a device made of PVC pipe and two tires. It appeared the device was binding with the kayak holding it in place while the unit rolled down the beach atop a set of tires. It was a simple concept that I felt with a few adjustments could be emulated and applied to a stokes basket.

Several prototypes and months later I came up with a device that I patented and named the TURK. Some thought the name derived from the 1985 movie “TURK 182”with Timothy Hutton and Kim Cattrall but it was much simpler than that: Turnell. Universal. Rescue. Kart. The TURK was evaluated by the local 36 safety committee and was accepted as a practical device to be used by the DCFD. It was during the TURKs 90 day trial period that it was put to use on the METRO train accident on June 2, 2009. Faced with the dilemma of having to move heavy hydraulic tools down the track to the train, RS-2 squad wagon driver along with T-6 technician loaded 500lbs of hydraulic tools into a stokes basket. With the TURK the two were able to move the equipment approximately 1000 feet down the track bed to the train.  The TURK continues to be a proven asset on the fire ground, mass casualty incidents, and just recently in underground mines. The TURK has been a welcomed device among many fire departments and mine rescue teams because it possesses two important attributes:  it’s fast and simple. The fact that firefighters continue to discover different uses for the TURK beyond the initial intention of what the device was designed to do is testimony to its simplicity. Today, watching a team deploy the RIT basket with the TURK is uplifting. However the greatest pleasure I receive is when a firefighter or miner comes to me and says, “Hey, thanks for doing this, it makes it a lot easier”. That makes it all worthwhile.

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